Bulb customers have reacted with dismay to the news that their supplier has gone bust, although a significant number also described how the quality of the firm’s customer service had fallen away in recent months.
On Monday the company, which supplied energy to about 6% of UK households, became the biggest casualty of the energy crisis so far after telling Ofgem it could not carry on.
About three-quarters of customers who contacted the Guardian described a positive experience, particularly those who joined the company early on in its six years of trading.
Emma, a 32-year-old marketing executive from London, was unhappy at the news administrators had been appointed. “I’ve been a Bulb customer for nearly four years and have always been incredibly impressed by their customer service and ease of use of their website and app … I dread being taken on by another provider now, as I know the customer experience won’t be as good.”
Rob, a 31-year-old researcher from Yorkshire, who had switched to the firm in part because it offered green electricity, was equally disappointed. “I’ve always found Bulb to be very good. On the rare occasion I’ve needed to speak to them, customer services has been very good and issues have been resolved quickly.”
Overall, customers appear to have liked the fact that the company – in contrast to bigger rivals – offered one clear tariff. In the past it was not uncommon for other suppliers to have 10 or more to choose from. Many said they had signed up because the firm sold 100% renewable electricity. The £50 referral bonus paid to customers who signed up friends was also seen as a big hit for users. This contributed to its rapid growth, with people’s extended families all being signed up.
However, other readers reported doing battle with the company in recent months after it tried to up their direct debits, seemingly in an attempt to improve its cash position.
Clare, who described herself as an author, wrote: “Ten days ago they contacted us to say our account was £17 in debit so they were doubling our monthly electricity payment to £230. There was no explanation, justification or right to appeal. I have so many friends whose payments were doubled in the past few weeks that it’s clear that Bulb was using customers as a cash-cow to make up for not being able to secure finance to stay afloat.”
One reader, a 42-year-old accountant from Edinburgh who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “My account was in a reasonable amount of credit (normally between one and two months’ usage), but despite this there were constant demands to increase my payments … It felt like Bulb were trying to use their customers as unofficial investors with no return.”
Eleanor, from Wales, left Bulb about 15 months ago after noticing that prices had begun to increase, one of multiple respondents to complain of this. “By then, customer service had deteriorated, with emails going unanswered or taking a long time to receive a reply,” she wrote.
A number of readers questioned whether the energy sector had been properly regulated, given that so many suppliers have now collapsed. Many older readers also described fearing what the next few months could hold, given that the price cap is set to be raised again in April.
Iain, from Glasgow, summed up the mood. “I am concerned about who I will be transferred to after Ofgem stops running Bulb. Not sure how we’ll afford energy [this winter] when we’re looking at a suggested 78% monthly increase among other [price] increases. The government needs to do something to help, and they need to do it now,” he said.