EDF Energy told to pay £3m to help vulnerable customers

Gas ring Image copyright PA
Image caption Customers experienced long waiting times, with many hanging up before getting through

EDF Energy has been ordered to pay £3m "to benefit vulnerable customers" following an Ofgem investigation into how the company handled complaints.

The investigation came after a 30% rise in complaints after the introduction of a new IT system in 2011.

The company did not have the means to properly receive, record and process customers' grievances.

All six of the big energy firms have now had to make similar payments within the last two years.

Ofgem's Sarah Harrison said it was now time to "put customers first".

She added that: "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.

"It's now vital for EDF Energy and the industry as a whole to truly put customers first and put adequate resources in place to deal with complaints."

Beatrice Bigois, EDF Energy's Managing Director of Customers, 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."

She said the company apologised to affected customers and that they had taken the matter very seriously.

She added: "The £3m package that we are offering will ensure that thousands of vulnerable customers are provided with free, independent advice on debt, as well as information to help them manage their energy consumption and bills."

'Rebuild' trust

The £3m will go to a Citizens Advice energy scheme called "Best Deal Extra", as well as a debt helpline.

This comes after Ofgem's announcement in June that a full investigation is to be held into the UK's energy market in a bid to "rebuild" consumer trust.

The inquiry is expected to take around 18 months.

Ofgem said that 43% of customers did not trust energy suppliers to be open and transparent in their dealings with them.

The UK energy market is dominated by six large companies. The "big six" are British Gas, SSE, E.ON, EDF, npower and Scottish Power.

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