News : EDF to Pay Out to ‘Vulnerable Customers'
August 22, 2014 -- Energy provider EDF is paying out to 'vulnerable customers' after a watchdog found it did not cope well enough with a huge surge of complaints.
Gripes with the French-owned firm jumped more then 30 per cent when it was in the throes of introducing a new IT system in 2011.
But frustrated customers faced 'unacceptably high' waiting times when they rang the company's call centre, the regulator Ofgem said.
Many were not recorded properly on the system, while others gave up and hung up.
Today's payout - which Ofgem agreed with EDF instead of a fine - will not be paid directly to customers because it was difficult to establish who was affected or how much money they lost.
Instead the fine will go to the Citizens' Advice Bureau's debt helpline, based in Plymouth, and the charity's Energy Best Deal Extra scheme to help other customers in future.
Ofgem's investigation found that between May 2011 and January 2012, EDF Energy did not have appropriate procedures in place to properly receive, record and process all customers’ complaints.
When callers eventually got through, there was evidence that the supplier failed to record all the required details for the complaints received.
These included the date of receipt and a summary of the complaint and action taken, without which it was difficult to track complaints' progress.
At times when the new systems were down, complaints were not logged until some time after they were received.
But the regulator added that staff at the energy company took action quickly to rectify the problems and to mitigate the effects on consumers.
Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner with responsibility for enforcement, said: 'EDF Energy failed to have sufficiently robust processes in place when they introduced a new IT system and this led to the unacceptable handling of complaints.
An EDF spokesman said the errors happened during an 18-month transfer onto the new IT system 'despite careful planning and investment'.
The spokesman added: 'As soon as the problems emerged, following a number of unforeseen technical system problems, EDF Energy suspended the transfer of customer accounts into the new system.
'Actions were taken to resolve these technical problems and hundreds of additional staff were recruited to restore service levels.
'EDF Energy has publicly acknowledged that the service to customers was not acceptable through this period and has co-operated fully with Ofgem throughout the investigation.'
EDF managing director Beatrice Bigois said: 'Despite our best efforts and extensive planning to manage this transition in 2011 without impacting our customers, we recognise that for a period of time the service to our customers was not up to the standards they deserve. We apologise to those customers who were impacted during this period.
'We have cooperated fully with Ofgem and have taken this matter very seriously.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About EDF Energy:
EDF Energy is one of the UK’s largest energy companies and the UK’s largest producer of electricity. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the EDF Group, one of Europe's largest energy groups, We generate around one fifth of the UK's electricity, employ around 20,000 people, and deliver electricity around 8 million customer homes and businesses through our public networks.
Published: Monday, August 25, 2014