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Gas & Electricity

CRU customer care report reveals marginal increase in complaints in 2019

CRU customer care report reveals marginal increase in complaints in 2019
Rob Flynn

Rob Flynn

Staff Writer

The CRU’s Customer Care Team provide a free dispute resolution service to energy customers in Ireland, while its annual report reveals the types of complaints made and dealt with throughout the year.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) releases its Customer Care Team report every year and is invaluable when it comes to assessing the quality of each energy provider's customer service.

Good customer service is an important function of any good business and it's one thing that’s very important to us here at bonkers.ie.

In this article we’ll take a look at the CRU's most recent report on customer service for 2019, which was released only a few weeks ago, and which may be of particular interest to those considering switching providers in the near future.

And with data for 2020 imminent, there's no better time to get your head around the current customer service trends in the world of energy.

The bigger picture

In 2019 the CRU Customer Care Team (CCT) received 5,878 telephone calls, 8,377 emails, 478 web queries, and 299 letters.

The various consumer contacts received by the CRU in 2019 culminated in the creation of 4,839 cases, roughly in line with 2018 figures.

Some of the most important information is as follows:

  • 316 - complex complaints
  • 87 - average no. days needed to resolve a complaint
  • 33% - energy & water complaints investigated that were upheld in favour of customers

Common complex complaints

As you can imagine, the CCT is inundated with queries, issues, and complaints from consumers day in, day out. However, the CCT only fully investigates what are called ‘complex complaints’.

Complex complaints are those where a customer has already exhausted their respective energy suppliers’ complaints handling process.

In 2019 the CCT opened a total of 282 complex complaint investigations involving energy suppliers or network companies, an increase of 3% compared to 2018.

When it comes to the top listed complaints, billing and account problems continued to produce the majority of customer complaints year on year at 66% and 19% respectively.

Customer service issues (6%), switching (3%), disconnections (3%), as well as marketing and sign-up problems (1%) were also key drivers for complex complaints against energy suppliers.

Out of the 282 complex complaints investigated, the CCT closed 276 in 2019, a marginal increase from the previous year.

A look at the energy suppliers

Electric Ireland registered the most amount of closed complaints in 2019 with a total of 93. While this was almost an 11% increase, the energy supplier continued to have the biggest market share which means it’s not a complete picture of the supplier’s customer service performance. But more on this shortly.

Bord Gáis Energy had the second most amount of complaints closed, coming in at 28. What’s more, the overall level of BGE complaints brought to the CRU has been steadily decreasing since 2015, according to the regulator.

complaints closed

As can be seen from the image above, zero complaints were made against PrePayPower in 2019.

Upheld vs Market share

Next we’ll take a brief look at the amount of upheld complaints versus each supplier's market share as a more accurate way of comparing each supplier’s customer service.

An upheld complaint is one where the CCT found the respective energy supplier to be at fault.

In broad terms, 33.7% of complaints were upheld in favour of the customer, 60.5% were not upheld, and 5.8% were resolved by an early settlement.

As you can see below, Electric Ireland still had the highest number of upheld complaints at 39%, while it also had the largest market share.

Interestingly, more than half of the complex complaints made against Electric Ireland were not upheld.

BGE came in second with 22% of complaints upheld and a market share of the same. That being said, BGE has seen a significant decrease in the number of upheld complaints against it since 2017. 

SSE Airtricity had the lowest percentage of upheld complaints relative to market share, with only 3% upheld against a market share of 12%. SSE Airtiricty has also been the winner of Best Customer Service at our annual bonkers.ie National Consumer Awards for the last three years running so this is unsurprising to us.

Flogas (9%), Panda Power (6%), and Pinergy (4%) had disproportionately high numbers of upheld complaints versus their low respective market shares.

upheld complaints

It's worth noting that new providers Bright and Glowpower were left out of the data for 2019 as they only entered the market in early 2020 and will be included by the CRU in the next tranche of data.

It will be interesting to see how the data from 2020 plays out for the likes of Flogas in particular, following its acquisition of Just Energy as well as BE Energy.

Complaints per 10,000 

Meanwhile, in the final graph below we can see the number of complex complaints per 10,000 customers for each energy supplier.

This graph includes all complex complaints, regardless of whether they were upheld or not.

While PrePayPower had the lowest volume of complaints per customer, with SSE Airtricity coming in second at 0.14 per 10,000 customers, perhaps the most commendable improvement in 2019 was made by Pinergy.

Flogas and Panda Power meanwhile had the highest number of complex complaints referred to the CRU at 6.37 and 2.26 per 10,000 customers. 

complaints per customer

Stay tuned for 2020 customer service data

The CRU is scheduled to release its bi-annual Energy and Water Monitoring Report before the end of the year which will look at data for the first half of 2020.

So if you're interested in following up on how all the energy companies and their respective customer service departments performed for the first half of 2020, do stay tuned as we'll make sure to keep you informed!

Switch and save on your bills

If you’re not happy with your customer service, and if you haven’t switched supplier in some time, you’ll be glad to know the process has never been easier.

By using our energy price comparison tool online you can find the best deal for you in seconds and be signed up within a number of minutes, provided you have all the right information to hand.

What’s more, the average energy customer who switches today could save up to €498 on their bills! 

Run a quick comparison right now across electricity, gas, or dual fuel and see how much you could save with bonkers.ie!

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