More misery for gas and electricity customers as Powergen prepares to push up prices

01 February 2008 / by Verity G
Powergen is set to announce that it is increasing its gas and electricity rates, following price hikes from several of the UK's biggest energy providers over the last few weeks.

7.4 million Powergen customers are facing escalating fuel bills after it emerged that the E.ON-owned energy company was briefing its sales team on dealing with the new increases expected to come into effect within the next month.

Currently the third biggest power supplier in the UK with 4.7 million electricity and 2.7 million gas customers, E.ON has been quick to follow the other gas and electricity providers in increasing prices after the industry blamed the hikes on growing wholesale energy prices and increased green energy costs.

The news follows a recent Ofgem review of the energy companies adherence to debt and disconnection guidelines set down by energywatch and Ofgem in 2003 which has revealed that the number of energy debt cases handled by Citizens Advice is up by a third.

Adam Scorer, energywatch Director of Campaigns comments: "Average bills have breached the £1,000 a year barrier. Higher energy bills in a period of economic downturn are breaking the bank for tens of thousands more consumers who have probably never been in debt to their suppliers before. The upward trend on levels of debts and numbers of disconnections should be a great concern for everyone.

"It is imperative that energy suppliers are more proactive and commit more resources to help consumers. They must pursue more hands-on ways to help consumers in trouble with sensible debt prevention tactics, tackling the problem in the early stages and by realistic repayment arrangements which factor in a consumer’s ability to pay. What is good for consumers is good for the companies."

However despite the review, customers are still struggling to pay their energy bills. And if to add insult to injury, energywatch today published the findings of a survey exploring the ways in which gas and electricity providers deal with customer complaints.

According to the study, a staggering 97 per cent of customers claimed that their supplier had not delivered on what it had promised to do and in some cases customers were left waiting up to seven months for a response following a complaint.

Allan Asher, Chief Executive Officer of energywatch, comments: "Energy companies are their own worst enemies. By not listening to consumers, not returning their calls, not updating accounts and many other examples that are signals of poor customer service, they give consumers no reason to stay. Worse still, they allow simple problems to turn into seven month sagas of broken promises and poor customer service.

"Over the last eight years energywatch has successfully pushed the industry to improve its performance in areas such as marketing, switching and disconnections. Once energywatch disappears in October the energy suppliers will have to take full responsibility for their consumer’s welfare. Sadly too many of them have been lying down on the job for so long, they will need to be propped up by regulatory action," he added.

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