Small energy supplier Solarplicity is banned from taking on new customers after complaints of poor customer service
- The ban will be in place for three months unless Solarplicity can improve
- If it doesn’t improve, Ofgem can take steps to revoke its license
- It has also been announced Co-Operative Energy and Ebico are raising their prices in response to the price cap increase
Small energy supplier Solarplicity has been banned by the industry regulator from taking on new customers as a result of providing poor customer service.
Ofgem said the ban will remain in place for three months unless Solarplicity can prove it has significantly improved its customer service, ensures that people can switch smoothly and that contract renewal notices will be sent out in a timely manner.
The provider has been ordered to manage complaints appropriately, identify vulnerable customers and ensure they receive the appropriate support.
Solarplicity is not allowed take on new customers & has three months to make improvements.
Ofgem said Solarplicity should also review customer accounts, especially those in debt, to ensure customers in payment difficulty are managed properly, for example by putting them on repayment plans.
Ofgem said it was looking for a number of improvements to Solarplicity’s customer service that ‘had been poor for a number of months’.
It highlighted an ‘unacceptably high proportion’ of calls abandoned and ‘unacceptably long call waiting times’ between March and September 2018.
The supplier has also been prohibited from increasing vulnerable customers’ direct debits.
Mary Starks, executive director of consumers and markets at Ofgem, said: ‘We have taken action against Solarplicity to protect its customers from experiencing further detriment.
‘Solarplicity must get its house in order and provide a level of service that its customers expect.
‘If not, Ofgem will take the necessary steps to ensure customers are further protected and will take the relevant action needed to do this, which may result in its licence being revoked.’
If the energy firm fails to make improvements within the next three months, Ofgem can confirm the provisional order to extend the ban and can then take further steps to revoke Solarplicity’s license completely.
Ofgem said the customer service at Solarplicity had been poor for a number of months
The company currently only has a score of two on customer review site, Trustpilot, at the moment, giving it an overall rating of poor.
Matthew Vickers, chief executive at the Energy Ombudsman, said: ‘In 2018 we accepted for investigation 1,035 complaints about Solarplicity. In common with most other suppliers, billing was the main driver of complaints.
‘Last year’s total represents a significant increase on 2017 complaint volumes, but that increase should be seen in the context of a rapid growth in Solarplicity customer numbers.
‘We are working actively and collaboratively with Solarplicity to identify and help implement improvements that can be made to the company’s complaint-handling process and customer service more generally.’
A number of small energy suppliers have ceased trading in recent times due to tough market conditions including Extra Energy, Spark Energy, Future Energy, National Gas and Power, Iresa Energy, Gen4U, Usio Energy, One Select, Economy Energy and Our Power.
Small energy suppliers increase tariffs
It was also announced today that small suppliers Co-Operative Energy and Ebico are the first of the challenger providers to hike their prices after the Ofgem price cap increase was announced earlier this month.
Co-Operative Energy announced a 10 per cent rise for over 60,000 customers on Standard Variable Tariffs (SVT), which equates to a hike of £117, meaning the new SVT plans will cost on average £1,253 a year.
Ebico also revealed a massive 16 per cent increase for SVT customers, increasing its tariff from £1,058 to a huge £1,227.
The increases affect customers of their GB Energy and Flow have also announced price rises of 10 per cent for their customers.
GB Energy ceased trading in 2016 and Co-op Energy was appointed the Supplier of Last Resort. Flow was also acquired by Co-op Energy in May 2018. Both GB and Flow brands continue to be operated by Co-Op.
All of the Big Six suppliers have now revealed price hikes of 10 per cent or higher to match the price cap limit.
The new prices will come into effect on April 1 of this year.
The cap was introduced in January of this year to help customers who never switched supplier and remained on expensive tariffs.
However, due to the increase in wholesale energy costs, the caps have already shifted significantly.
The cap will continue to be reviewed every six months, with the next review due to take place in October of this year.