Research found British Gas customers had a choice of 10 different service numbers to call and 115 menu options to choose from in order to speak to the right person. It also found that a customer calling the supplier about a replacement boiler could spend more than four minutes pressing buttons before even reaching a queue to speak to someone.
The rest of the Big Six energy firms have also come under fire for their use of touchtone menus and voice recognition to connect customers to the relevant departments.
It’s been a damaging few weeks for the energy industry, which has faced the contempt of the public, the scrutiny of Parliament and the wrath of the industry regulator, Ofgem.
Scottish Power, British Gas, SSE and npower faced heavy criticism in recent weeks for increasing their prices by as much as 10.4% (just days before increasing its prices, Scottish Power was ordered to pay out £8.5million to its customers to make amends for widespread doorstep and telephone mis-selling practices).
Executives from eight UK energy firms also faced four hours of questioning in parliament from the energy select committee in late October. The latest news won’t do anything to build public trust in the Big Six, especially since calls to customer service numbers are not always free.
Nigel Clarke, founder of PleasePress1.com, the website which carried out the research, said: “It won’t surprise consumers that, according to our analysis, the ‘new customer’ option for all service providers is the easiest to get to and the best-resourced option of the lot. Cancellation lines across most sectors are buried deep in the bowels of the call centre system or simply don’t exist.”
Ready to switch
According to a poll on the PleasePress1 site, more than 75% of its users are now so fed up with their suppliers that they’re ready to switch to a new one.
Before the suppliers started putting prices up in October, more than half of you told us that an energy price hike would break your budget. When the dominos did begin to fall, MoneySuperMarket’s energy channel saw a huge increase in visitors as many of you began to vote with your feet.
If you’re unhappy with your energy supplier, for whatever reason, there’s still time to switch and fix your energy to protect yourself and against price hikes. You can find out just how to do that in my article: Your step-by-step guide to switching energy provider.
* Up to 10% can save at least £244.64, MoneySupermarket data based on sales. June 2013
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