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NMa: Dutch energy companies need to improve their handling of complaints

Dutch consumers still give nine out of the ten largest Dutch energy companies failing marks for the way they handle complaints. For the first time ever, a company, Essent, scored a six (on a scale from 1 to 10). The average score rose from 4.3 to 4.7 in a three-year time period, and is currently at 5.2 for the year to date. These are the results from a survey on complaints handling among energy companies, conducted by the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) for the third year in a row.

The companies that have not been given passing marks have been requested by the NMa to draw up improvement plans. These companies have indicated that they would comply with the request.

Held for the third time, the survey presented a detailed picture of the current state of play in the Dutch energy market with regard to complaints handling procedures. Some clear trends are emerging. Generally speaking, the energy industry is definitely on the right track, particularly with regard to communication in relation to the handling of the complaint, as confirmations of having received customers' complaints are sent out more often and with shorter reaction times. Also, waiting periods for receiving a decision regarding a complaint are becoming shorter. The quality of the complaints handling procedure is on the increase on virtually all the aspects that are measured. This is promising, but the reality remains that the average marks are still failing marks (below 6) – except for customer-friendliness, which has an average of 6.3 – and thus need attention.

'Customers have become less dissatisfied, but the energy companies need to step up their improvement efforts,' says Pieter Kalbfleisch, chairman of the Board of the NMa. 'Complaints handling procedures are of crucial importance to the trust that consumers place in the energy companies,' Mr. Kalbfleisch says. The NMa will keep a close eye on the road to improvement. The NMa will conduct the same survey in 2009 among the same companies that were included in the 2008 survey.

The NMa will soon launch a thorough examination of the facts at energy supplier Cogas, because its marks have been far below average, and because the quality of their handling of complaints in the eyes of its customers has seen a decline for years now. Similar examinations earlier this year and the subsequent binding instructions that followed them have already led to dramatic improvements in quality at two other suppliers, E.ON and DONG.

For the third year running, the NMa held a survey among 2,000 customers of the ten largest Dutch energy suppliers. It polled their opinions on complaints that were filed with those companies, and that were handled between January 2008 and April 2008. The ten energy companies that were included in the survey were: Cogas, Delta, DONG, Eneco, E.ON, Essent, Greenchoice, NUON, OXXIO and RWE.

You can find the complete results of the survey here. (in Dutch)