ScottishPower accepts sales ban after failing Ofgem’s customer service target

Press release

Publication date

  • ScottishPower will stop proactive sales for 12 days from today
  • Sales ban reflects supplier’s failure to meet Ofgem target to clear all outstanding Ombudsman decisions on customer complaints
  • Customers with outstanding Ombudsman complaints will continue to receive free energy until issues are resolved

ScottishPower has stopped proactive selling for 12 days after Ofgem found that the supplier failed to remove a backlog of outstanding Energy Ombudsman decisions by the end of November. The ban started today and affects all outbound sales activities.

In November, Ofgem launched an investigation into ScottishPower’s treatment of customers. Customers were experiencing long call waiting times, receiving late bills and the firm was not implementing Ombudsman decisions. ScottishPower also signed up to three Ofgem targets to improve customer service within three months or suspend proactive sales activities until the targets were met. It has failed to reach the target to remove the backlog for acting on Ombudsman decisions for individual complaints by the end of November (see notes to editors below for details).

Where ScottishPower’s IT systems only allow a partial implementation of the Ombudsman’s proposed remedies, the firm has been providing affected customers with free energy and has been writing off past debt. ScottishPower has assured us that these Ombudsman requirements will remain in force for any case where the company can only partially implement the Ombudsman’s decisions. More than 2,000 customers are currently receiving free energy.

Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner in charge of enforcement said: “A sales ban illustrates the difficulties ScottishPower is having in delivering the levels of service customers deserve. While Ofgem’s targets have driven significant improvements in ScottishPower’s performance, we remain very concerned about how customers are being treated.

“As well as our ongoing investigation, we require ScottishPower to undertake an independent audit of its progress on improving customer service. We will keep the need for any further action under review.”

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Notes to editors

1. ScottishPower’s performance against Ofgem's targets

ScottishPower's performance against the three targets set by Ofgem in November is as follows:

A) Improve the speed of answering customer calls by the end of January. Average call waiting times have fallen to less than two minutes since November. Result: target met.

B) Reduce the number of bills sent out late. Late bills have fallen from 75,000 to less than 25,000. Result: target met.

C) Completely remove the backlog for acting on Ombudsman decisions for individual complaints by the end of November. Ofgem was told by ScottishPower that this target was met in December and this was confirmed by the Ombudsman. But in January Ofgem and Ombudsman Services uncovered new evidence that showed the company had not fully met its November target. We have continued to work with Ombudsman Services and they found ScottishPower fell short by 30. Result: target missed.

2. What is the Ombudsman’s role in relation to complaints?

Suppliers have a maximum of eight weeks to resolve a customer’s complaint. If a supplier is not able to resolve the complaint to the customer’s satisfaction in that time they can complain to the Energy Ombudsman. The Ombudsman provides a free service and is independent of the supplier. It can require the company to correct the problem, apologise, explain what happened, and has the powers to award compensation to the customer of up to £10,000. Its decisions are binding on the energy company but not the consumer. Suppliers have to implement any remedy the Ombudsman puts in place within 28 days.

3. Interim remedies

Where ScottishPower is unable to implement the Ombudsman’s decision due to issues with the supplier’s IT system, the customer is put on an interim remedy. ScottishPower is writing off all past bills for the customers affected and is not charging them for their ongoing energy use. ScottishPower will continue to honour this commitment until the underlying root cause affecting the account is fixed.

4. Ofgem’s investigations

Below are two of our investigations relating to customer service issues.

For further press information contact:

Lisa O'Brien: 0207 901 7426
Dafydd Wyn: 020 3263 9943
Out of hours media contact number: 07766 511470