Ofgem gives green light to Npower to resume telephone sales ñ Energy Giant accepts and addresses its issues


September 2014

Ofgem gives green light to Npower to resume telephone sales ñ Energy Giant accepts and addresses its issues

Npower has been given the green light to resume their telephone sales undertakings by Ofgem after the regulator determined the energy firm had suitably addressed the soaring number of late bills sent out to customers.

Ofgem made the call to permit the much maligned energy firm following a 3 month investigation into whether the energy giant was fulfilling their designated duties regarding the quality of customer service and general conduct.

Taking issue with the 280, 000 late bills dispatched by npower in June, the regulator cracked the whip demanding npower complies with its target of 100, 000. The energy giant duly acquiesced, with the number of bills sent off tardily plummeting to 62, 000 in August, symbolic of its willingness to take a more agreeable approach to the regulatorís demands.

Sarah Harrison, enforcement head at Ofgem, commended npower on their efforts, but implied there are more kinks to be ironed out.

Ofgem is encouraged to see that npower has met our targets aimed at reducing late bills and we note their progress on reducing complaint numbers. But this is only a first step to turning round their customer service and billing performance. We will monitor their progress and continue our investigation into the reasons why npowerís problems occurred:î reasoned Ms. Harrison.

Npowerís return to grace?

Npowerís billing conundrum stemmed from their implementation of a new invoicing system in 2012, which proved to be challenging to cope with and resulted in a swollen number of customer complaints. However, the problem was not appropriately addressed, and by 2013 npower was being flooded with over 3 times more complaints than the energy firm with the second highest number of grievances received. Despite presenting a plan to Ofgem aimed at remedying the situation, the regulator decided an investigation was warranted in the summer of 2013.

However, Wednesday could have marked npowerís return to grace, with the energy firmís revelation that customerís accounts were operating at the level before customer complaints went through the roof, and the number of customers still affected by late billing issues had fallen by over 200, 000 to 62, 000.  

Moreover, the firm have assured both the public and Ofgem that a team, numbering an estimated 1400, were working to ensure all remaining complainantsí billing issues would be resolved, and that updates would be provided through a monthly review on the situation in question for the remaining months of 2014.

The energy giant can be commended for taking the bull by the horns in what was a particularly testing dilemma, and coming out the other side with genuine, successful solutions. This success is underscored by a 70% fall in the number of protests sent to the energy watchdog.

Roger Hattam, npowerís domestic retail director, reinforced the energy giantís commitment to its clientele, stressing that it would do all it can to resolve the remaining complaints:

ìIím pleased that we have met our commitment made in June to reach our billing performance target. Weíre now billing over 98% of customers on time. However, the journey doesnít stop here as weíre working hard to make even more improvements.î  

Last year, consumer organisations were griping about the trustworthiness of npower, with Consumer Focus claiming the only way to enhance consumer trust was through the improvement of their ëcustomer service and complaint handlingí. It would appear that npower has made significant steps towards addressing these pressure groupsí concerns, and as such, this could be a watershed moment returning consumer relationships with energy firms to the healthy state they ought to be in.