Waiting hours on the phone for regulated gas rate squeeze: ‘Very frustrating’

The National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) has opened an information file on energy companies amid the difficulties customers are facing to take advantage of the gas tariff of last resort (TUR), which is much cheaper than the free market offer.

The government intends to subsidize consumers on the regulated market until December 2023 and introduced a new category intended for neighboring communities to protect them from the sharp increase in the price of this fuel that has been experienced since the war in Ukraine. For this, it allocates 3000 million euros of state funds.

The executive, the competition and the companies themselves admit that there has been an avalanche of requests in recent weeks, which have proved difficult to manage, because according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the troops assigned to attend to them are the same as before. “We know the customer service is the same” and it’s not enough, Energy Secretary Sarah Aagesen said in an interview on RNE on Tuesday, announcing the opening of the investigation by the super regulator.

It will be up to the CNMC to determine whether this backlog of requests is intentional, leading to the opening of a sanctions file and, if necessary, appropriate penalties, or whether it is simply a problem of lack of material resources.

This newspaper contacted the four marketers that offer TUR (Naturgy, Endesa, Iberdrola and Totalenergies) on Tuesday to request data on how the volume of calls has increased in recent weeks, the average time it takes to process a registration in a TUR contract. , if additional facilities are planned or what the average waiting time is.

Only Endesa responded, admitting that the “exponential increase in customers registered with TUR” is taking place when the transition from the free gas market to the regulated market has previously been “rather anecdotal”.

“As the forecast is that this change will continue and the volume of demand will increase, we are strengthening the service channels and will continue to do so, especially the phone channel,” says Endesa, pointing out that the average waiting time for phone calls is now. is about 3 minutes. “There can be peak times at times and for that reason we have a plan in place to increase our operational capacity to accommodate changes for customers who wish to do so.”

According to CNMC sources, “requests are being sent” to marketers of last resort to see how they perform. Wait times and services dedicated to customer service are analyzed to see how each of these companies is doing.

long wait

Difficulties are evident in what CNMC President Cany Fernandez described last week as “massive movements” in the regulated gas tariff. And just pick up the phone to check it out. We’re doing a test this Tuesday by calling Naturgy customer service. This multinational company is the outstanding leader in the Spanish natural gas market, with almost 46% of customers at the end of 2021, about 3.66 million, according to the latest data from the CNMC. Of these, 2.5 million were in the free market, and 1.16 million were in the TUR.

On the first phone call Mentioned on the Naturgy website And the information brochure of the Ministry of Ecological Transition on the new TUR 4, 900 370 800, an automated voice asks us to wait “a little while” and another announcement warns us that the waiting time is “longer than usual” due to the fact. A large number of requests. “We’re taking steps to fix it,” he says. Two minutes later, a typical call center buzz is heard. It seems that they are going to answer, but no: the call is disconnected.

Another attempt and another automated voice telling us that all agents are busy. Again the wait and another man’s speech promotes Naturgy’s additional services unrelated to these regulated marketing services for maintenance and repair of appliances and boilers “in less than three hours”. We only want to hire TUR. You should arm yourself with patience, but it is in vain. After waiting for more than an hour, the call is disconnected again.

With auxiliary lines from the other two major Spanish power companies, Endesa and Iberdrola, we have more luck. In both cases, after ten minutes of waiting, the operator visits us. The task is impossible for Baser, a regulated marketer whose client portfolio acquired French multinational TotalEnergies from Portuguese EdP in 2020.

In this case, it takes a little more than a minute to disconnect us if we want to register an electricity or gas contract by phone. They invite us to use the form on their website. Not a single person on the other side. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with them on the phone for days, I’m 82 years old and can’t use the internet very well” or “I can’t get through to this company” are some of the latest comments on Google. Buzzer. “Waited 47 minutes for customer service today, disgraceful,” says another customer. “He’s been ringing on the phone all afternoon and no one is answering,” complains another.

According to the data, the population of Asturias, where Buzzer has its headquarters and a large part of its historical customer base, is the oldest in Spain. 27.04% of its residents are at least 65 years old, According to INE statistics. One wonders how people who are not familiar with new technologies are going to hire a TUR. A look at the web pages of Retailers of Last Resort (CUR) that provide this service (who are also responsible for processing social bond rebates, recently enhanced) shows that they prioritize customer service via web forms.

“more than a week”

Monika’s story of arriving at the field illustrates this situation. Well-versed in the energy business (he works in this sector), he has to spend more than a week processing the change in the regulated gas tariff before announcing the extension of TUR to neighboring communities in early October. For his parents, both elderly.

Monica “strongly” advised them not to leave TUR at any time, but “the Naturji Iberia salesman lied to them about the goodness of the free market rate and changed the contract.” He spent “more than a week” trying to register for TUR with this company on several phones (lists: 900 100 502, 900 292 929, 900 813 527). “Impossible, minutes and minutes of waiting.”

He decided to try his luck with Iberdrola’s regulated marketer, Curenergía. After a “long wait” on the phone on October 6, he was told that the system was “down” and could not hire a TUR. He tried again with Naturgia. “Finally, after an hour and a half of waiting, they picked up the phone.” This week I received a message from CUR informing me that the change had finally been made.

“My parents are older and could never do it on their own. However, a few years ago they had no problem signing a contract with a free marketer. In general, advertising surrounds them and promises discounts on large numbers for insignificant amounts. It is very sad that companies behave like this. And it is very common, I know many cases. They are using all their resources to take you to the free market and no resources to return to the regulated market,” he laments.

Source: El Diario





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