Ecotricity Reviews: Does it Get a Green Thumbs Up?
Ecotricity is the world’s first green energy company. The first to generate 100% green electricity with plans to develop its green gas supply, it is officially “Britain’s greenest energy company". But are its customers raining praise on them, or lamenting a cloud of hot green air? Find out what everyone’s saying.
In Selectra’s thorough Ecotricity review we look at how this environmentally-clean supplier has been received by its customers across the UK. This can help you decide if they’re worth switching to.
We’ve looked individually at their customer service, tariffs and prices, bills and account management, and complaint handling. Let’s see where they’re excelling and where they need to improve. Before we commence, if you need a refresher on who Ecotricity is and the range of services it offers, see our comprehensive Ecotricity guide by hitting the button below.
Customer service is crucial when deciding to stay with an energy supplier long term. With your busy schedule, you need to know that you can count on them whenever you need help. Remember that if you need to reach out to Ecotricity, you must go through the correct channel to reach the best team who can answer your question. Find the list of Ecotricity's contact numbers and emails in our Ecotricity Contact guide.
Both Ecotricity and its customers may have a different interpretation of customer service, so let’s see if Ecotricity are delivering what they promise.
What does customer service mean to Ecotricity?
“Awesome customer service is one of the things we do best” is how Ecotricity’s Customer Service Code of Practice begins. That’s a bold statement to make, which they justify in their tenth annual complaints report following their new “state-of-the-art telephony system”. They also boast about their new “meter operator” intended to improve their metering services, as well as their new IT system. Both of these tools are intended to help Ecotricity bring down its complaint numbers down as it was in the past.
Customer service reviews were certainly a lot better historically. Ecotricity capitalised on this in its testimonials page where it quotes glowing reviews from customers dating back to 2016! It even devoted a whole page to its 2017 award from Citizen’s Advice on its stellar customer service. That sounds lovely, but times have changed. We’re more interested in knowing what customers have been saying in the past year, from 2018 to 2019.
Luckily Ecotricity has been very transparent by collating and publishing this data on its website in accordance with Ofgem’s requirements to do so. With this, we can find out if Ecotricity does indeed “keep its promises” and “fix problems quickly”, as stated in their Code of Practice.
What service are Ecotricity customers actually getting?
Overall, Ecotricity received 1,334 complaints between October 2017 and September 2018. That’s an average of just 7.86 complaints per 1000 customers in the year 2017/2018. Not bad. But what about the results for 2018 up to the first quarter of 2019? Let’s take a look at the data and the results.
|Period||Complaints received||Complaints resolved||Resolved same or next working day||Resolved within 8 weeks|
KEY: Q1 = January to March; Q2 = April to June; Q3 = July to September; Q4 = October to December
From the above data, we can draw the following conclusions:
- Complaints received increased steadily. However, this isn’t necessarily an indication of poorer performance. From Q1 2018 to Q1 2019 Ecotricity’s customer base increased significantly, so it can be expected that with more customers come more customer complaints.
- Complaints resolved improved significantly throughout the past year. This could perhaps be attributed to Ecotricity’s improved telephony and IT systems as boasted about in their latest complaints report.
- Complaints resolved the same or next working day also improved slightly over the past year. The biggest improvement was from Q3 2018 to Q4 2018, so we can assume that Ecotricity have implemented some processes to improve its performance in resolving problems quickly.
- Complaints resolved within 8 weeks also got a lot better over the past year. It’s more likely that complaints would take longer to resolve rather than on the same or next working day. Ecotricity’s three-step complaints handling procedure involves first submitting a complaint to its “complaints experts".
If the customer is not happy with the response received, it can be escalated to the higher rung of the hierarchy to a “complaints champion” who’ll carry out an independent review. Naturally, this won’t all happen in one day! Eight weeks is, in fact, the best measure of time to use, as it’s the time limit imposed by Ofgem before the customer is allowed to escalate it externally to the Financial Ombudsman. With 96% of complaints being resolved internally within eight weeks during Q1 2019, we’d say that’s rather impressive!
Top reasons for complaints to Ecotricity
Aside from the number of complaints received and resolved, another indicator of Ecotricity’s customer service lies in what customers are actually complaining about. By categorising complaints, we can see clearly where Ecotricity’s strengths and weaknesses lie.
Ecotricity hasn’t published these results for Q1 2019, but we can see how it has performed over the previous year.
|Reason||Q4 2018||Q3 2018||Q2 2018||Q1 2018|
|Customer set up||2%||2%||7%||7%|
The figures are astonishing when we consider that Ecotricity's customer base increased significantly from Q1 to Q4 2018. They gained lots of customers during this period. With more Ecotricity customers registered, you’d be forgiven for assuming that complaints in each category would also increase in the same proportion. Not so. The fact that this hasn't occurred reflects Ecotricity’s high performance in each category listed above.
Complaints regarding billing have gone down, despite this being the most frequently voiced category in consumer review websites such as Trustpilot.
Complaints regarding meter readings were the only category that increased significantly in the last quarter of 2018. This is also not surprising given the current rollout of smart meters by suppliers at the behest of Ofgem, which wants every household to have one by the end of 2020. As we’ve previously covered, the rollout of smart meters has been somewhat haphazard, to say the least!
Many customers with SMETS 1 meters who switched to or from Ecotricity have had their smart meters turn dumb. Customer’s efforts to request a SMETS 2 meter, which are guaranteed to stay smart after switching supplier, are in short supply. This would be one of the most logical and likely explanations for the increase in complaints to Ecotricity regarding meters.
Our aim is to deliver the very best possible customer service (Source: Ecotricity according to their complaints report.)
What’s Ecotricity doing to improve its customer service?
The green energy supplier aims to deliver “the best possible customer service”. What’s it doing to achieve this? Mainly, two things: online access for customers and a smart meter rollout. Neither of these things is particularly worthy of shouting about, particularly when they should come as standard!
Let’s delve into each of these two actions to see how they can improve customer service and whether or not they’re working in practice.
1. Online account access
What is it? Ecotricity customers will be able to access their online account both on desktop and smartphone.
Is it innovative? Not really. Giving customers online account access to their account either on desktop or mobile is nothing new. In fact, it should be expected as standard.
What are the intended benefits*? Ecotricity’s smartphone app contains features which are intended to aid customer service. Let’s take a look at the features and their intended benefits to find out if it truly does what it says on the tin:
|Submit meter readings for their gas and electricity accounts||Saves time by avoiding the need to call Ecotricity to give meter reads.|
|View the real-time balance on their account.||Helps households budget for their energy bills and to avoid fuel poverty.|
|Make a full or part payment while saving the payment method for the next time they make a payment.||Assists budgeting with the option for part payment, while saving time having to reinsert bank details to make a future payment.|
|Report any problems with your meter with the option of sending a photo to show what’s wrong.||The problem can be resolved either the same or next working day as an Ecotricity engineer can diagnose the problem and provide a solution without visiting the customer’s home.|
|Access 24-hour emergency contact numbers to report power cuts or gas leaks.||Many customers don’t remember or haven’t stored the number for the Gas Emergency Service. The app provides a button to call them quickly, which can save time and reduce the risk of harm in a dangerous environment.|
*Note that we used the term “intended benefit” rather than “actual benefit” in the table above. In the former, we’ve expressed what the benefit could be on the basis that the corresponding app feature fulfils its purpose. Is this the case? Do the app features actually achieve their function to provide the intended benefits for its customers? Let’s find out.
What are the actual benefits? Very few! Ecotricity’s app has received appalling reviews from its users who downloaded the app on both platforms. Apple users rated it with 2.6 / 5 stars, while Android users gave it 2.7 / 5 stars. So what’s the app failing to do that it was supposed to fix?
Let’s take a look at the good and bad reviews of the app left by its users:
- “The bill history doesn't match my actual history” (McRider, May 4 2019)
- “I would really like the ability to see my current balance” (Martin, December 5, 2018)
- “The app is useless in terms of reminders notifications.” (Sarah, November 16, 2018)
- “It is impossible to submit a meter reads as this app freezes before you can enter them.” (Rob, August 30, 2018)
- “Can't open pdf bills despite having reader apps” (Anon, April 12, 2018)
- “Crashes on latest Android”. (Bill, August 24, 2018)
Conclusion? Ecotricity has indeed shot itself in the foot. By launching a smartphone app with the aim of improving its customer service and reviews/ratings, it has done the opposite. If Ecotricity doesn’t launch a sophisticated update to its app very soon, its customer reviews may get worse, not better.
As of the date of publication, Ecotricity no longer offers its principal mobile app available for download. Only its Electric Highway App is available for download from Apple and Android devices.
2. Smart meter rollout
What is it? As noted in our Smart Meters Guide, the government wants every UK household to have a smart meter by the end of 2020. That’s why Ofgem has required that every supplier provide its customers with one by the deadline. This is what’s known as the “smart meter rollout”.
Is it innovative? No. As stated above, Ecotricity is under a binding obligation to provide its customers with a smart meter. It’s not optional, so it’s bizarre that Ecotricity offers this as one of its two-pronged strategies to improve its customer service and reviews. What Selectra would consider “innovative” in its roll-out obligations is to go one step further by offering SMETS 2 meters rather than SMETS 1 meters. Find out here what the difference is.
Is Ecotricity rolling out SMETS 1 or SMETS 2 meters? To date, the green supplier has been rolling out SMETS 1 meters. When we got in touch posing as a customer to ask for a SMETS 2 meter, they told us they will be rolling out SMETS 2 meters from August 2019.
What are the benefits of SMETS 2? There are lots of added benefits of having a SMETS 2 meter that you don’t get with SMETS 1. In summary, SMETS 2 meters will never go “dumb”. This means that your meter readings will be automatically submitted to Ecotricity, without having to do a thing. There’s no automated billing, just accurate bills based on your actual consumption from day-to-day. Also, if you’re already an Ecotricity customer and decide to switch to another supplier after discovering a better deal, your SMETS 1 meter will retain its smart functionality.
Ecotricity customer reviews
We delved into Ecotricity customer reviews written on various consumer review websites. They vary depending on the review site, so we’ll look at what people have been saying about Ecotricity on the two biggest customer review websites: Trustpilot and Which?
Ecotricity reviews on Trustpilot
As of June 2019, a total of 848 reviews had been left by Ecotricity customers. Given this supplier’s short time in the energy market since 1996, its number of Trustpilot reviews is a lot smaller compared to its Big Six cousins (6,084 Trustpilot reviews for British Gas and 3,095 Trustpilot reviews for EDF Energy).
The varied Ecotricity reviews reflect the large spread between the 51% who rated it as “excellent” and the 29% cohort who rated them as “bad”. Overall, Trustpilot rates Ecotricity as Average with 3 out of 5 stars.
Reviews on Which?
In Which?’s 2018 Energy Companies Customer Satisfaction Survey, Ecotricity came 8th out of 30 energy providers who were rated by 7,429 members of the public.
This was better than all of its 'Big Six' competitors. Also, it’s worth noting that Ecotricity's customer score at 70% was nine percentage points higher than the total average for energy companies in England, Scotland and Wales.
Following the survey, Which? awarded Ecotricity an overall customer satisfaction score of 72%. It received 4 / 5 stars for the following:
- Bill accuracy
- Bill clarity
- Phone customer service
- Complaints handling
- Help to understand and reduce energy bills
- Value for money
It was awarded five stars for its “online” customer service.
Selectra’s customer review round-up
We love that customers are onboard with Ecotricity’s green initiatives. Knowing that the money they pay in energy bills is being invested in green projects confirms their initial motives for switching to them in the first place.
At Selectra we found their website easy-to-use, informative about their green projects and very transparent regarding their performance data. We were relieved with Ecotricity’s decision to pull its poor-performing smartphone app, so we were spared having to download it and review it for ourselves!
Their only smartphone app available is for those with an electric vehicle wanting to find a nearby Ecotricity charge point. It received a paltry 1.9 out of 5 stars from both Apple and Android users.
Based on the Ecotricity customer reviews on Trustpilot, Which?, Google and our own interactions with the supplier, we give the provider 2 / 5 for overall customer satisfaction.
Ecotricity: Customer review score - ★★
Want to know how we rate Ecotricity as a whole? Head to our complete Ecotricity guide to see Selectra’s full verdict.