While many consumers have complained to their energy or telecoms providers in the past, only four in ten (38%) said they felt fully confident doing so, according to new research from independent price comparison and switching service, Switcher.ie. The majority of telecoms customers (59%) and one-third of energy customers (31%) have had cause for complaint in the past.
When it comes to telecoms, consumers’ most common cause for complaint is a problem with the service, or not getting the service they paid for (57%). And around a third have complained about poor customer service (35%) and mischarging or problems with their bill (31%). These issues are the main ones escalated to ComReg too, as outlined in its latest Consumer Line Statistics report.
Meanwhile, cost – as always – remains a thorny issue for telecoms customers, with three in ten (30%) saying they have complained following a price increase and two in ten (22%) complaining due to poor value for money.
In relation to energy, almost half of consumers’ complaints (48%) were raised due to billing problems or mischarging, while over a third (37%) followed a price increase. Three in ten (29%) have complained due to poor customer service, while a quarter (24%) have flagged concerns about a problem or not getting the service they paid for. And poor value for money sparked just under a quarter (22%) of complaints.
The findings suggest that there is every reason to raise such concerns with household suppliers, with the majority of complainants finding the companies helpful and responsive. In fact, almost six in ten said that their complaint was rectified, with telecoms providers (58%) performing marginally better than energy suppliers (57%). The cause of a further 24% of energy complaints and 20% of telecoms complaints were explained by the relevant provider, but not rectified. Only 19% of energy complainants and 22% of telecoms complainants said the reason behind their complaint was neither explained nor rectified, or the issue was outstanding.
Providers are generally prompt in terms of dealing with complaints – six in ten complaints to energy suppliers (57%) and telecoms providers (61%) were resolved within a week. However, a quarter of energy (25%) and telecoms (24%) customers were waiting three weeks or more for their issue to be resolved, possibly due to their complaint being more complex.
Customers are not afraid to vote with their feet if they feel their issue has not been properly resolved. Almost half (48%) of telecoms complainants whose complaints were not resolved said they switched to a new supplier, while four in ten (40%) energy complainants with unresolved complaints switched away. A decent number of customers also escalated their complaint either within the supplier or to a regulatory body, like the Commission for Regulation of Utilities or ComReg, with 37% of energy complainants and 28% of telecoms complainants doing so.
However, it’s unfortunate to see that only four in ten of us feel fully confident when it comes to complaining, and it’s also concerning that 26% of energy complainants and 21% of broadband complainants say they didn’t feel there was any action they could take following an unresolved complaint. It’s possible more needs to be done to educate consumers on the options available to them if a complaint is not resolved to their satisfaction.
Eoin Clarke, Managing Director of Switcher.ie, said: “In the course of any customer/provider relationship, it’s not unusual to see service or billing issues arising from time-to-time, so it’s concerning that so many consumers need a confidence boost when it comes to contacting their provider to complain.
“All providers have a complaints process in place, so we would urge any consumers who have an issue to talk to their supplier, as it’s very likely that their concern may be easily addressed. You can contact most providers by phone, email or post, and many have online help centres now too, so choose whichever method works best for you and get the ball rolling. When you contact your provider, outline your complaint clearly, and be sure to include contact details so that they can update you on the status of your complaint.
“It’s encouraging to see that the majority of complaints are resolved by providers within a week. However, for consumers whose complaints seem to be taking a long time to be resolved, or are not resolved satisfactorily, it’s important that they know there are other avenues open to them. They should contact the relevant regulatory body – be that the CRU or ComReg – but only after they’ve exhausted the complaints process with their provider first.
“If you explore all avenues in relation to your complaint and it’s still not resolved to your satisfaction, consider whether moving to a new provider might be the best option. You could get new features, better service and a nice introductory discount, potentially saving you hundreds of Euro too.”