Record levels of complaints against a small energy supplier have prompted the consumer watchdog to call for stronger regulation to protect households from poor customer service.
The plea by Citizens Advice came as the group published a customer service league table of energy companies that ranked Iresa, which was the cheapest on the market, as the UK’s worst.
Other small challenger firms dominated the bottom rungs, including publicly owned supplier Robin Hood, the Nottingham city council-run company that counts Jeremy Corbyn as a customer.
Spark Energy, Toto Energy and Avro Energy were all in the worst five, but Citizens Advice saved its strongest criticism for Iresa.
The company scored 0.35 out of a maximum five stars for service between January and March. The supplier chalked up a new high for complaints, with more than 9,000 complaints per 100,000 customers, compared to Toto’s 1,800.
One Iresas customer received a one-off request for a payment of £1,000, while another had been unable to contact the firm despite trying for more than three months, Citizen’s Advice said.
Ofgem recently banned the company from taking on new customers because of the failings, and has launched a review to raise the bar for new entrants to the energy market.
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice’s chief executive, said: “It is vital now that Ofgem does more to protect consumers from poor customer service.
“The regulator’s upcoming review of licensing rules must do two things: make it easier to stop unprepared suppliers from entering the market, and take poorly performing companies out of the market faster.”
Ofgem said all suppliers must provide good customer service. “Where suppliers fail to do so, Ofgem will step in and take strong action,” said Rob Salter-Church, the regulator’s interim executive director.
The worst-performing supplier among the big six energy companies, which control around 80% of the market, was E.ON.
SSE was the best of the big six but is in the process of merging with the third-worst of the large suppliers, npower. Market leader British Gas was second best for service. The top slot overall was taken by a small supplier, So Energy.
The Citizen’s Advice ranking drew on data including complaints to third parties and publicly available figures from the energy industry.