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Two-thirds experience frustration at utility price structure and service

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20th Jan 2010
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More than two-thirds of UK consumers filed complaints with utility companies last year, according to a new survey, with broadband suppliers the provider most likely to make customers see red.

The annual Switching Survey, carried out by ORC International on behalf of parent company Infogroup, asked 1,000 respondents from across the UK about the service they received from utility firms, and what they do when things go wrong.

And the findings reveal that most of us filed complaints with businesses supplying our energy, telecomes and digital TV in the last 12 months.

Broadband suppliers were the main culprit, with 35% of us having lodged a grievance with them. But energy companies also attracted criticism, with 23% of us having complained to electricity suppliers last year, and the same number to gas suppliers.

The results have the biggest implications for energy companies it would seem, as the same survey reveals that customers are most likely to switch supplier as a result of a grievance if the problem is with an energy business.

Last year, more than a quarter of us switched either gas or electricity suppliers, and 19% changed both. Still not satisfied, a further fifth of us will consider switching again during the next 12 months.
 
Reasons for switching reveal irritation at high prices and poor service, with respondents citing unreasonable price hikes and inaccurate billing among the main reasons to consider other suppliers.  And with the proliferation of online forums and review sites, the number of people who then told others about it, either in person or online, has risen to 70%.

This too could have increasing implcations for providers as the ORC International survey found that 30% of consumers take personal recommendations when looking for TV or broadband, while 40% rely on the recommendations of others when choosing a mobile phone company. Online price comparison sites are also playing an increasingly important role in consumers’ choice of energy supplier with 37% of gas customers and 40% of electricity customers going online to compare companies.  

Angela Richmond, head of ORC International’s customer strategy and technology division, said: "Underlying these survey results is a real frustration about the pricing structures and customer service offered by utilities companies. We often hear about how, as a nation, we are reluctant to complain, but our survey shows that increasingly we won’t put up with poor service or uncompetitive prices.
 
"And we are keen to let others know about our experiences. Given that many people choose their broadband supplier through personal recommendation, that should ring alarm bells with suppliers."

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