Energy and Water News Roundup: Complaints, Making a Difference and Wonga Tactics

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Scottish Power Join Complaints List

The Citizens Advice Bureau has said that during the first three months of the year, Scottish Power received 200 complaints for every 100,000 customers. This figure was double the 1oo complaints per 100,000 that the company received in the months leading up to December. To accompany the official complaints, Telegraph Money have also received many complaints from Scottish Power after the company opted to change the way it conducted billing last year. These complaints have now been made official as several of them were sent to the supplier recently. scottish gas complaint

The Energy Ombudsman said that complaints for energy companies had reached an all time high of 22,671 in the first half of this year, doubling the amount recorded during the previous year.

Swalec Proud To Make A Difference

Swalec believes that when an energy company says it wants to make a difference, they should mean it. That’s why they are the first FTSE 100 company to be accredited with the Fair Tax Mark, which means that customers can be safe in the knowledge that Swalec and its parent company SSE are paying their fair share of tax and being open about the way in which it pays it. The company also employs over 19,000 people and supports over 100,000 jobs across the UK. 500 young people are also being trained up in order to be the energy engineers of tomorrow. All the staff who work for Swalec/SSE are guaranteed the new Living Wage so that basic living costs such as bills, food and travel are covered. This makes the company one of the largest Living Wage employers in the country and they are attempting to persuade their suppliers to do the same. swalec promise

On top of this, Swalec and SSE also make a £9 billion contribution to the economy- the equivalent of the London 2012 Olympics. From this, £1 billion has been invested in infrastructure in the last year as well as £1 billion in purely taxes.

British Gas Goes To Extremes To Hijack Rivals

Energy supplier British Gas is going to extraordinary lengths to hijack efforts by customers to contact rival firms. A new partnership with the 118 118 directory enquiries service means that any callers asking for the number of another energy company are met with a hard sell for British Gas.

The operator for 118 118 is asked to highlight one of British Gas’ fixed rate tariffs as well as promote a £50 high street shopping voucher incentive. They can then offer to connect customers to a British Gas salesperson rather than a representative for the company that they had originally intended to contact. Therefore, a customer who may have been trying to contact an affordable independent supplier such as First Utility may be pushed towards British Gas instead. The new partnership between the service and the company is raising questions from critics about whether consumers can truly trust the Big Six firms to deal fairly with consumers following complaints of high prices and poor service.

The price of dialling 118 118 has risen recently with a minimum charge from a landline ranging from £4.45 to £5.68. If the call lasts any longer than necessary, this can increase further. People who use the service pay a charge to get to a specific number, so to be hit with advertising is a big pain. Not only that, but if they are connected to British Gas from 118 118, they will be charged £2.57 per minute.

A spokesperson for the Consumer Action Group said:

“I suppose it’s hardly surprising. Two companies each with a controversial reputation over pricing, finding comfort in each other’s company. The 118 118 service doesn’t offer value for money so our simple advice is don’t bother to dial the directory service. You save money and you don’t have to listen to British Gas advertising. Two birds of a feather with one stone. Simple.”

In July, British Gas was ordered to pay £1 million to customers after selling energy deals to shoppers in Sainsbury’s stores using misleading claims about potential savings. In the last 18 months, it has lost hundreds of thousands of customers as many customers turn to smaller, more independent suppliers for a better deal.

118 said that its activities complied with the industry code of practice covering premium rate telephone lines.

Wessex Water Spends Big To Improve Water Quality

The decision from Wessex Water to spend £39 million on improving water quality in Burnham-on-sea has been welcomed. Millions of pounds has been pledged by the water company for sewerage and infrastructure improvements in the Burnham area which will contribute to an overall improvement in water quality, helping it to meet new EU regulations which will be put in place next year. burnham_promenade

Burnham’s Conservative Candidate spoke of the bid:

“I’m delighted our MP has made such great progress in getting Wessex Water and the Environment Agency to do their bit in improving the bathing water off Town Beach.”

Thames Water Expands Scottish Services

Thames Water has trebled the size of its Scottish operation in a bid to get more out of the £330 million Scottish business market. The company has created an experienced six strong build team in Edinburgh, allowing it to build on an already successful 12 months in Scotland where it has already enticed customers in banking, finance, leisure, commercial, retail and education sectors. One of the customers is BskyB who chose Thames Water as the provider for its two largest sites in Scotland. Thames-featured-low-680x365

The company now has six Scottish sites on its books, with part of its long-term plan being to expand further.

Northumbrian Water Accused of Using ‘Wonga Tactics’

North East water supplier Northumbrian Water has been accused of using ‘Wonga style tactics’ after it used threatening letters from debt collection agencies, similar to the controversial payday lender. The company was found to be among half of UK suppliers who were sending correspondence which appears to be from an external debt agency but was actually from the company itself.

Northumbrian Water was sending out letters with the name Alexander James in large print at the top of the letters, but they say it was clearly linked to the company. They have since stopped sending the letters. _78184514_letterheadsfullpage

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