The under-fire energy firm is using its online channels and has written to millions of billpayers to apologise after what was described by Ofgem as a “serious deterioration” in customer service this year. Npower received 202.5 complaints per 100,000 customers between April and June – more than twice the numbers of nearest rival EDF Energy (see table) – according to research last month commissioned by the regulator.
Npower blamed the problems on installing a new computer system that prevented bills and statements from going out on time and direct debits not being set up properly.
Chief executive Paul Massara assured that customers affected would not lose out financially as a result. The company has also pledged to donate £1m to a fund for vulnerable customers, with half being transferred to Macmillan Cancer Support.
In a letter to customers Massara said: We’ve let many of you down recently in the overall levels of customer service we’ve been providing. We apologise unreservedly.”
Npower’s customer action plan was welcomed by Ofgem, which said the sharp rise in complaints was “wholly unacceptable”. The regulator is facing growing calls from politicians and consumer action groups to be tougher on the country’s biggest providers in the wake of the latest round of price hikes. Npower has agreed to provide the watchdog with additional regular reports on its service levels following the incident.
Sarah Harrison, Ofgem senior partner, says: “We are pleased to see Npower’s leadership team focusing on this issue, acknowledging the scale of the problem and sharing with customers its action plan to put things right. Npower’s commitment that its customers will not lose out financially as a direct result of the company’s billing system problems is important and we will expect Npower to do all it can to identify and rectify such cases.”
The announcement comes a day after the energy firm, along with four of its rivals, updated its price pledge to pass on savings to customers following Government plans to cut fuel bills.