Ofgem has banned Iresa from taking on new customers, increasing existing customers’ direct debits, and asking them for one-off-payments, for up to 3 months until it resolves customer service issues.
Over this period, Ofgem has ordered Iresa to improve the service it provides to its customers, including in the following ways: (2)
- extending call centre hours, bringing down average call waiting times to below 5 minutes, and responding to customers who request a call back by the end of the next working day
- responding to customer emails within 5 working days
- clearing a backlog of consumer emails
- logging and recording all expressions of customer dissatisfaction
- acting to manage and identify all of its vulnerable customers, including offering to put them on a priority services register
Ofgem will monitor Iresa’s response. If Iresa fails to take these steps within the next three months, Ofgem could take further action which could include, ultimately, revoking the supplier’s licence. Ofgem has taken this action due to the substantial information it has received suggesting that Iresa’s customer service failings risk causing its customers immediate harm.
Dermot Nolan, Chief Executive of Ofgem, said: “This order sends out a very clear message to suppliers that where they fail their customers on service, Ofgem will step in and take strong action. It’s crucial that all suppliers provide customers with good service, including acting quickly and effectively to sort things out wherever problems occur. Iresa now needs to act quickly and put its house in order otherwise ultimately its licence could be revoked.”
This provisional order is a temporary measure that allows Ofgem to make a supplier stop or perform specific activities within a short timescale, where there’s a high level of information to suggest it may be breaching its licence, and needs to quickly change its behaviour to prevent further consumer harm.
Ofgem continues to run a separate longer-term investigation into the company.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said: “Ofgem has made a very important intervention by confirming a provisional order on Iresa. We welcome this effort to prevent further problems for the supplier’s customers. As the watchdog for energy consumers, Citizens Advice formally referred Iresa to Ofgem last November for its consistently poor customer service. Iresa must now take steps to drastically improve its customer service and fix the problems experienced by its customers.”
“But while this is a positive step, Ofgem also needs to go further. The regulator should tighten up its licensing regime so they can prevent poorly prepared suppliers from entering the market in the first place.”