- Pushy power firm E.ON slammed for forcing smart meters on customers
- HMRC’s new tax-free childcare service has been plagued by technical problems
- Santander bank has refused to cover the losses of fraud victims
- Previous winner Scottish Power struggles to deal with the simplest of queries
- Virgin Media customers complain of problems when moving homes
Today we launch the tenth annual Wooden Spoon Awards
It’s time to stick it to the firms that drove you up the wall in 2017. Today we launch the tenth annual Money Mail Wooden Spoon Awards for poor customer service.
If you’ve been let down by a telecom firm, passed from pillar to post by your power supplier or left brimming with rage by a bank, this is your chance to get your own back.
And in a new feature this year, we also want you to nominate your Service Star.
This new prize will be awarded to the company that has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and left you beaming.
Just send us a short account of a memorable act of kindness — or of staff unexpectedly resolving a tangle using good, old-fashioned common sense.
Over the past decade, Money Mail’s Wooden Spoon has become the trophy big bosses fear the most.
That’s because your opinion matters.
Today we reveal the five on this year’s shortlist and ask you to vote for the one you want us to name and shame as the worst.
Our list has been carefully compiled from the hundreds of letters, emails and calls we receive each week.
Scroll to the bottom to vote in the Wooden Spoon
Money Mail spends most of its time fighting your corner against the giants who bungle everyday requests and payments.
So the traditional end-of-year Wooden Spoon Award hones in on organisations that look after the key areas of our finances: bank accounts; savings and mortgages; investments; insurance; tax; and essential utilities such as phone and energy bills.
BT, the winner for the past two years, is the most notable absentee this time around, after considerably cleaning up its act.
We now receive far fewer complaints about faulty BT broadband and phone lines or unhelpful call centre staff.
The same goes for Vodafone. After an ignominious third place last year, chief executive Nick Jeffery vowed he’d invest in better customer service — and it seems to be paying off.
The quantity and seriousness of the gripes you send us are much reduced.
Once you’ve made a decision on who provides Britain’s worst customer service, vote using the form below.
And don’t forget to tell us about the good service you’ve had, too — for our new Service Star prize. Simply include a note in your letter explaining your choice.
You can pick any company you’ve had dealings with this year.
You have until Friday, January 5, 2018, to vote. We’ll then reveal the winners later in January, when we’ll hand over the Spoon and Star gongs to the respective chief executives.
When Money Mail revealed in September that energy companies were using high-pressure tactics to push customers into having smart meters installed, you inundated us with examples.
These new meters use wireless signals to tell suppliers how much energy you use. But they are not compulsory and customers can refuse.
In some cases, firms scheduled dates to fit the meters without being asked — and bombarding customers with calls, texts and letters if they refused to have one.
E.ON was the worst offender among the Big Six power giants. Angry customers said it had told them that they must switch to a smart meter or face bill hikes.
Others had been sent letters that suggested installing a smart meter is a legal or a safety requirement.
E.ON also revealed plans to replace its expensive standard tariffs with cheaper rolling deals — but only for its customers with smart meters.
It was only after Money Mail reported the firm to the energy watchdog that E.ON agreed to change the information it sends customers to make it clearer that smart meters are optional.
A spokesman for E.ON says: ‘We’re always looking at how we can improve things for our customers. We fully support the smart meter rollout and are keen to enable our customers to see the benefits of this advanced technology for themselves.’
The taxman is no stranger to the Wooden Spoon shortlist — and it’s had another miserable year. HM Revenue and Customs’ new tax-free childcare service, launched in April, has been plagued by technical problems, leaving parents locked out of the website and unable to log into accounts to pay nursery fees.
When parents then tried to ring the helpline, they routinely couldn’t get through. In August the taxman had to set up a compensation scheme for those who had lost out.
HMRC has also come under fire for unfairly pocketing thousands of pounds from savers.
Money Mail revealed in November that people in their 50s and 60s who made extra payments to top up state pensions found they didn’t actually qualify for an increase. Yet when they asked for their money back, the taxman refused.
There has also been a great deal of confusion around the marriage tax break. In September we reported that 2 million of the 4.2 million couples eligible for the perk had not claimed it, missing out on around £1.3 billion between them.
You tell us the application process is cumbersome and it is difficult to find out if you’re eligible.
Letters to Money Mail’s agony uncle Tony Hazell also suggest HMRC is still giving customers the runaround when they’ve paid the wrong amount of tax and need to correct their records.
Sometimes it has taken the tax office months to reply to your requests — and then it’s failed to apologise.A spokesman for HMRC says: ‘We’re delivering better customer service across the board.
‘Call waiting times are below five minutes, we’re now available seven days a week, and 13 million people have signed up to online tax accounts to manage their tax online.
‘We’re sorry that some parents didn’t receive the standard of service to which we are committed. We’ve improved the new service.’
At the start of this year Money Mail was flooded with heart-wrenching cases of Santander customers who had lost their life savings to online banking fraud.
Con artists pretending to be from telecoms firms and even Santander itself had found a way to exploit the bank’s payment verification system to empty people’s accounts without them being alerted by text message.
In one of the worst cases, a 49-year-old from London lost £180,000.
Santander refused to cover these losses, claiming the victims should not have given out their details over the phone.
In some cases it sent victims standardised letters claiming to have investigated their case fully just 24 hours after the customer had reported the incident.
Santander also failed to tell some customers that they had the right to appeal to the Financial Ombudsman Service if they disagreed with the bank’s decision.
Since Money Mail highlighted the flaw in Santander’s text message system, the bank has tightened its security.
But many victims are still thousands of pounds out of pocket.
A spokesman for Santander says: ‘We work hard to prevent our customers becoming victims of scams.
We invest heavily in processes and systems to detect and prevent fraud. We are sorry if some of our customers feel we have not met the simple, personal and fair standards we strive to meet.
We take our responsibility in this area very seriously and will continue to fight back against the criminals who are ruining people’s lives.’
After Scottish Power won our Wooden Spoon three years ago, its service appeared to be improving.
But over the past 12 months its name has again started to crop up in our postbag with regularity.
You tell us time and time again that the firm is unable to deal with the simplest of queries.
Readers routinely say their bills and direct debit payments are wrong — sometimes because their address has been confused with a neighbour’s. Then, when you ask for it to be corrected, nobody comes back to you — and sometimes Scottish Power compounds the error with another bungle.
In the worst cases, customers are being threatened with debt collectors over money they don’t owe.
Scottish Power has been ranked bottom of the Big Six suppliers for service by Citizens Advice in its latest ratings.
And the firm’s own figures show that complaints are starting to creep up again. Between July and September it received 138,877 complaints.
That’s a 14.4 per cent increase on the 121,320 it received in the final three months of last year.
Its figures also show that complaints are taking longer to resolve. Colin McNeill, retail director at Scottish Power, says: ‘In a recent survey we had the best call answering times out of the big suppliers and throughout the year we have continued to make solid progress in our service.
‘We are working hard to keep making service improvements and developing new products to look after our existing customers.’
Not a week goes by without a fistful of complaints about this telecoms giant appearing in our postbag.
One of the biggest gripes is around moving home. Customers who have been loyal to Virgin Media for years tell us that after moving to an area where the firm doesn’t supply broadband and TV, they are being charged hefty fees to exit their contract early.
How much they have to pay depends on how long their contract has left to run. In some cases, bills of up to £240 are being charged. Customers say they feel as though they are being exploited.
They say they were never warned about this trap when signing up and are paying the price for the firm failing to invest in full nationwide coverage.
Readers tell us that when they complain, Virgin’s staff are unhelpful and promise callbacks that never come.
The regulator, Ofcom, has said it will be investigating whether these charges are excessive.
It could introduce a cap, but the firm is continuing to bill customers in the meantime.
A spokesman for Virgin Media says: ‘Giving our customers excellent customer service is at the very heart of our business, so it’s disappointing to hear we’ve fallen short of their expectations and the high standards we set ourselves.
‘We take this feedback very seriously and are listening to the concerns raised by Money Mail readers. We have already taken a number of steps and are investing significantly to improve our customers’ experience.’
THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST BROADBAND DEALS
Sky’s Unlimited Broadband deal with TV and Sky Sports bundle comes with up to 17 Mbps speeds It costs £60 per month for the first 12 months, after that it costs £68.99. 29.95 setup fee applies.
NowTV’s Brilliant Broadband Combo deal comes with Sky movies which includes over 1,000 films on demand. It comes with connection speeds of up to 17Mbps and costs £29.98 per month with a £22 setup fee on a 12-month contract. After that the price jumps to £34.98 per month
Talk Talk’s TV with Kids Boost and Fast Broadband package offers up to 17 Mbps speeds, a TV Plus box – which allows you to record, pause and rewind live tv – with children’s hub and a bumper entertainment channels. It cost £27.45 a month and a one-off charge of £30 also applies. The price is fixed for 12 months.
Virgin Media’s Vivid 100 Fibre Broadband and Talk Weekends deal comes with up to 100 Mbps speeds. It costs £34 per month on an 12 month contract. £20 setup fee applies. At the end of the contract the price jumps to £45 per month
PlusNet Unlimited Broadband with up to 17 Mbps speeds comes with a £50 prepaid Mastercard reward It costs £19.99 per month on an 12 month contract. At the end of the contract the price jumps to £28.98 per month.There are no activation charges
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online