The energy provider Npower is facing a multi-million pound fine as well as a ban on its telesales activity over a shambolic billing system that has affected close to 300,000 customers.
The word comes from the regulator for the energy industry, Ofgem, which has given Npower a final ultimatum: delivery accurate bills by the end of August or receive a fine that could be in excess of £10 million. This is the latest in a batch of poor results for Npower’s customer service responsibilities having come bottom of a poll for customer satisfaction in the energy market.
The Ofgem threat comers after The Daily Mail’s money section Money Mail. It triggered an investigation into the energy provider’s billing services by submitting a dossier of complaints the newspaper had received from customers. Their document contained dozens of letters from customers who had received incorrect bills and were refused refunds. They also show the extent of the complaints mad to Npower which topped 1.4 million 2013. 8% of its customers had complained.
Many of the problems were related to hundreds of thousands of customers not being sent bills for months on end. Some had to wait more than a year for a bill to arrive. When they finally did, they faced huge bills of more than £1000 followed by demanded to pay or face action.
Npower, who are among the Big Six energy companies in the United Kingdom, admitted in September that there was a serious glitch on their computer system having gone through a switch over. It meant that there were problems on more than 700,000 different customer accounts. The energy company apologised for the error and offered to make a £1 million payment to customers in need.
There are still 400,000 bills that need to be fixed since Npower issued their apology almost 10 months ago. Ofgem have given them the ultimatum of reducing that figure to 100,000 by the end of August or else they will face the aforementioned fine and a telephone sales ban.
Ofgem’s senior partner Sarah Harrison said:
We have been increasingly concerned about the slow progress to tackle failings. Npower’s recovery plan has not delivered as far and fast as is necessary. Our analysis of complaints data also raises some serious concerns which will be thoroughly examined in our investigation.
The energy secretary in government, Mr. Ed Davey, has also called for change at Npower saying that their lack of customer service is ‘unacceptable’.