Iresa props up cus­tomer ser­vice ta­ble as ban ex­tended

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Ju­lia Brad­shaw

EN­ERGY sup­plier Iresa has been dealt an­other blow af­ter the body that reg­u­lates util­ity com­pa­nies ex­tended a ban on the busi­ness that pre­vents it from tak­ing on new cus­tomers.

Util­ity watch­dog Ofgem first is­sued the ban in March af­ter dis­cov­er­ing that Iresa’s cus­tomer ser­vice lev­els were in­ad­e­quate, giv­ing the com­pany three months to im­prove.

How­ever, Ofgem has said that while Iresa has made some progress, it has not re­solved all of its cus­tomer ser­vice fail­ings. “Iresa has sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced its call wait­ing times but has not made enough progress in re­duc­ing the back­log of cus­tomers’ emails,” Ofgem said.

“Iresa is also start­ing to show signs of im­prove­ment in how it han­dles com­plaints and how it man­ages its vul­ner­a­ble cus­tomers, but this is not cur­rently good enough nor has been sus­tained for a rea­son­able pe­riod of time. The con­firmed pro­vi­sional or­der will re­main in place un­til Ofgem sees a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in Iresa’s cus­tomer ser­vice.”

The en­ergy watch­dog said that Iresa needed to ex­tend its call cen­tre hours, im­prove call wait­ing times and re­spond to cus­tomer emails promptly. It also de­manded that the com­pany had a more trans­par­ent com­plaints pro­ce­dure, and a way to iden­tify and deal with vul­ner­a­ble cus­tomers.

Der­mot Nolan, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ofgem, said: “Iresa con­tin­ues to let its cus­tomers down by fail­ing to pro­vide a level of cus­tomer ser­vice its cus­tomers de­serve.” If Iresa con­tin­ues to of­fer poor lev­els of cus­tomer ser­vice, Ofgem could re­voke its li­cence to op­er­ate.

The rul­ing came as the char­ity Citi- zens Ad­vice, which orig­i­nally re­ferred Iresa to Ofgem, named the com­pany the worst in the sec­tor for cus­tomer ser­vice, with record num­bers of com­plaints.

Iresa came bot­tom of Cit­i­zens Ad­vice’s en­ergy star rat­ing sys­tem. The com­pany scored just 0.35 stars out of a pos­si­ble five for its cus­tomer ser­vice be­tween Jan­uary and March this year.

The sup­plier re­ceived the worstever com­plaints score recorded by Cit­i­zens Ad­vice, re­ceiv­ing more than 9,000 com­plaints per 100,000 cus­tomers. This is five times higher than the next worst sup­plier, TOTO En­ergy, which re­ceived 1,800 com­plaints. One Iresa cus­tomer con­tacted Cit­i­zens Ad­vice af­ter re­ceiv­ing a re­quest for a one­off pay­ment of £1,000. An­other was un­able to con­tact Iresa for more than three months to get a prob­lem solved.

Iresa said that it was dis­ap­pointed by Ofgem’s de­ci­sion as it had made sig­nif­i­cant changes to im­prove its cus­tomer ser­vice, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing its cus­tomer ser­vice team and ex­tend­ing its call cen­tre hours. “We will con­tinue to work with Ofgem to give them the con­fi­dence to re­move the or­der at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity,” it added.

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