A spotlight is being pointed at the energy industry at the moment. Customers are becoming more and more aware of the fall in wholesale energy prices and this is leading to an ever increasing level of customer complaints from those customers who are not seeing cuts in their energy bills.
Spark Energy have been accused of preventing their customers from leaving their service to switch to more fairly priced competition, amassing an unusual number of customer complaints and transferring their customers to new suppliers without asking them first. For these customers and supply issues, Spark will be fined £250,000, and on top of this are likely to suffer a major setback in terms of customer satisfaction and brand trust.
Although Spark has only been operating since 2007, these complaints mainly arose between 2010 and 2013. Spark did claim that most of these issues were due to being relatively inexperienced in the energy market and blamed the problems on teething difficulties. The senior partner of Enforcement at Ofgem, Sarah Harrison commented on this claim. She said that this was no excuse and rules were broken knowingly and Spark is being fined accordingly.
Spark was included in a 2013 aired episode of the BBC’s Watchdog, where the very high number of customer complaints was investigated. This came to the attention of Ofgem, who subsequently started conducting a separate investigation into the business practices of Spark.
Harrison also said that although these issues were serious, Spark has been establishing a swathe of new practices and rules to prevent any issues like this happening in the future. New figures of customer complaint handling are showing a marked improvement from the 2013 figures. Perhaps this example will push the other energy companies to remain careful not to abuse their loyal customers.
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