Unexpected bills ’cause havoc for stretched budgets’

Citizens Advice has welcomed the announcement that energy companies that fail to provide timely and appropriate billing to their customers will face s…

Citizens Advice has welcomed the announcement that energy companies that fail to provide timely and appropriate billing to their customers will face sanctions from industry regulator Ofgem.

Households currently struggling to make it from one payday to the next need all the help and support they can get to keep their finances on track. However, unexpected large bills can play havoc with this process.

The consumer advice charity has therefore welcomed the announcement that companies like npower – that have so far failed in their duty to provide adequate billing and customer service support to their clients – will now face a severe curtailment of sales activities.

Indeed, figures collated by Citizens Advice revealed npower is among the worst offenders in the UK for billing problems, with the firm having received 306 complaints for every 100,000 customers based on data from October to December last year.

This was ten times higher than the industry leader SSE, which received just 31 complaints per 100,000 customers over the same period.

Sarah Harrison, senior partner in charge of enforcement at the regulator, stated: "Ofgem has been monitoring npower's service closely and we have been increasingly concerned about the slow progress to tackle failings."

As a result, the company has been told it must now meet monthly targets until the end of August to reduce the number of late bills it is sending or face a ban on all proactive telesales activities.

Responding to the development, Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy commented: "Exposing customers to bill shock is completely unacceptable and can throw household budgets into disarray. For people struggling to make ends meet, finding hundreds of pounds to pay a large bill out of the blue can be impossible."

The npower investigation is the first to be carried out by the regulator under its new Standards of Conduct scheme, which was introduced last August and aims to ensure all energy suppliers are treating their customers fairly.

Posted by Joe White

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