News Roundup: Customer Service and Court Cases

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Scottish Power one of the worst companies for customer service

Scottish Power customer service has been named even worse than the notoriously bad Ryanair. Earlier this year, the company was ordered to pay a £750,000 penalty for hitting customers who choose to pay their bills with cash or by cheque with extra fees. This is similar to Ryanair who has annoyed customers for many years with its baggage and payment fees. Scottish Power isn’t alone in its sector, it is accompanied by NPower, SSE, British Gas, Eon and EDF in the bottom 20 of a customer satisfaction survey. scottish power

The executive director for Which? who conducted the survey said:

“The big six energy companies have now hit rock bottom for customer service and, with record levels of complaints, it is clear just how far they still have to go to put things right for their customers.”

Which? also said that the results of the survey should serve as a wake up call for the companies after many of them have faced warnings from the industry regulator Ofgem about a range of problems such as billing. Many customers of the companies do not receive bills for months on end and when they do they are often incorrect. The fine that Scottish Power received was due to the fact that it was forcing customers who opted to pay by cash or cheque to pay £180 a year in extra charges- despite the fact that they were still paying their bills correctly and on time.

Swalec to freeze bills until 2016

Swalec is dedicated to putting its customers first and is showing this by freezing energy prices until 2016- the longest unconditional energy price freeze ever made. The company previously carried out a survey to see what customers thought about their energy bills. 81 per cent of people were worried about energy prices rising again in the coming year. Swalec aims to give customers peace of mind with a guarantee not to increase standard prices until 2016- compared to other energy companies, who have certain fixed price tariffs, this is for everyone to enjoy. Regardless of what happens to global energy prices, the company will not increase theirs. There are a number of ways that the company is able to do this: Swalec is making a number of cost saving efficiencies within the company, making less profit overall, buying in advance to protect themselves from the energy industry price shocks. The Government is also assisting by making some changes to its energy efficiency scheme, making it much more cost effective. frozen_prices

The announcement came just several days after the company implemented a £38 reduction to the average bill. They are calling for the costs of the Government’s scheme to provide low cost energy to come from general taxes rather than from energy bills- saving the customer £100 on their bills. It would also ensure that low income households don’t pay towards the scheme, whereas those who can afford to do so, do, creating a fairer energy market for everyone.

British Gas ‘appalling’ according to priest

British Gas’ behaviour towards a wrongly issued bill has been called ‘appalling’ by a priest of the church that it affected. The firm debited over £20,000 despite the Priest stating that bill was obviously an error. He said that the problem came around because the company did not understand the meter, despite the fact that they installed. British Gas has since apologised and repaid the money. Canon Naylor of the church said that he was told by a representative for British Gas that he owed almost £21,000, which he questioned, calling for an explanation. He said that he was shocked because a local cathedral has their heating on all winter, compared to a few hours three days a week at his church, and their energy bills were nothing like that. He said that despite multiple tries, the company did not respond to his calls and took the money from the account whilst he was away on holiday. 22lpg_flame221

He said:

“The worst part is that they don’t reply to phone calls, they don’t answer emails- it’s appalling the way they treat their customers.”

A spokesperson for British Gas responded to the media by saying that the firm was ‘very sorry’ that they sent the wrong bills to Canon Naylor. The company is said to have taken urgent action to put his account right and they are also offering him a gesture of goodwill to apologise for the mistake. However, Canon Naylor is still angry because of the way that the company treats their customers.

Thames Water admits to causing workers death

Thames Water has pleaded guilty to a charge based on negligence after a worker was crushed to death over four years ago. Raymond Holmes, an employee for the company was killed in April 2010 at the company’s Coppermill Lane site in Walthamstow. The 60 year old passed away following a collision with a vehicle in a confined space. The case was passed to the Health and Safety executive in August after the crown prosecution said that there was not enough evidence for a corporate manslaughter charge. The company was due to enter a plea in September but the sentencing has been delayed until early December. generic-water-shot

A spokesperson for the company said:

“This case relates to the tragic death of Ray Holmes, a loyal long-standing employee of Thames Water in April 2010. We have informed the prosecution that we intend to enter a guilty plea in relation to the charges that have been laid against us under the relevant Health and Safety at Work act legislation.

The company is facing a charge under the health and safety act for simply failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. This serves as a reminder to all businesses that they need to ensure workers have had Confined Space Training if appropriate. A local union has criticised the length of time that it has taken to bring the case to court. The union said that the four years between the accident and the case has been intolerable for the man’s family and the charge could have happened in a much more timely manner.

The way to improve customer service is not some heavily guarded secret. It is rather simple and involves the implementation of software that enables customer and staff to communicate effectively and in a simple manner. Surely companies that observe customer service week should look into adopting such technology.

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