The customer service department is at your disposal. 

Money Mail receives flooded emails every week from people who are being pushed to the breaking point by retailers, banks, energy companies, telecoms providers and other government departments.

Customers are left frustrated by the endless stream of automated messages and call-waiting time. 

We've brought back our Wooden Spoon Awards at a time when big companies are driving their customers to despair with shoddy customer service

In a world where big corporations are driving customers into despair by poor customer service, we’ve brought back the Wooden Spoon Awards

Even if you do eventually get through to a real person, they are all too often unable — or unwilling — to help.

Some companies have gone a step further and abandoned their phone lines altogether, insisting that customers contact them online or via chatbots — which you say are a lousy substitute for a human.

Booby prize: The trophy big bosses fear will be awarded to one of our ten nominees

Booby Prize: One of the ten nominees will receive this trophy Big bosses Fear.

We gave companies a pass during the initial stages of the pandemic as firms worked out how they could run their business with home-based staff. 

However, enough is enough. Now, we are almost two years later and the virus blame game can no longer be played.

The restrictions were lifted months ago, and the firms had plenty of time to put their houses back in order.

Some businesses have gone out of their way and addressed complaints quickly. 

However, your letters demonstrate that Covid is still being used by many to deny loyal customers and to fail to provide basic levels of care.

We have decided to bring back the Wooden Spoon Awards after three years of hiatus. 

You are the one big bosses fear. 

As we have seen with previous winners, such as BT, scooping the dreaded prize can be the jolt firms need to turn things around — and we now receive far fewer complaints about the telecoms giant.

We monitored all complaints throughout the year to determine if they were severe or not. 

Today we present the shortlist of ten companies and you are asked to vote for which one has been the most disappointing. 

On hold: Call wait times have gone through the roof, with customers left exasperated by endless automated messages

Waiting on hold: With customers being frustrated by incessant automated messages, call wait times are at an all-time high

You can do this online at, via the MailPlus app at

Any ongoing complaints will be passed on to the relevant firm for investigation. 

In the new year we will reveal the winner and hand it to the Chief Executive of the Organisation.

Here are the nominations, alphabetically arranged. . .

Beleaguered Barclays 

Banks are being bombarded with complaints regarding long waiting times, shorter opening hours and poor customer service during pandemic. Fraud victims who have lost their money claim that they cannot get refunds. Barclays customer service appears to be in decline, according to our postbag.

Furious customers claim militant branch staff refused to assist them at the register and instead insist that they use self service machines. Customers are being informed by the bank that no counter staff can assist them with daily banking transactions through large signage placed at their doors.

Customers who are vulnerable feel neglected and fed up of being bullied to bank online. Tony Hazell, our letter editor, has been receiving a lot of grief-related complaints from family members who are trying to close the estates of loved ones.

Last week, we reported how the bank wouldn’t release funds for funeral costs following the death of one reader. This was after the latter had just lost their parents six weeks ago. Customer who act on behalf elderly or sick relatives report having trouble registering power of attorney documents.

Barclays UK’s head of customer transformation, Susan Allen says that the service she provided some customers when they were most in need, such as after a loss, was not satisfactory. Any customer that did not get the support they expected from us, we apologise.

British Gas Homecare dismay

British Gas HomeCare is an insurance policy that covers boiler repairs as well as annual services. 

We have shown in several articles that customer service has fallen to an all-time low at the company.

Readers say they are told they must wait weeks for an appointment, leaving families without heating or hot water — including some vulnerable customers in their 90s. Many others have difficulty calling and complained that the staff is rude or unhelpful when they try.

Engineers often fail to show up on time and are frequently canceled from annual services.

The delays were worsened by workers striking earlier in the year. In April, we sent the firm a file containing more than 100 of our letters and emails. 

Many are angry over the cost of premiums. New customers often pay hundreds of pounds less than loyal policyholders.

British Gas spokeswoman said: “While we pride ourselves on the speedy resolution of 98.7 percent of all emergencies within 24 hours, our sincere apologies to each customer for which we were unable to respond quickly enough.”

Currys: Complaints

Each month, we receive a flood of emails and letters from Currys customers. It is overwhelming.

They complain most about not being able to get help over the phone. Their complaints are not properly recorded or sent on to the appropriate staff members.

Some customers have also reported difficulties receiving refunds due to defective products. It feels like they are being lied to by the store.

Some complain of long waiting periods for repairs, which left them without washing machines or dishwashers for several weeks. Others expressed concerns over the installation crew at the store and claim they struggle to receive compensation for damage done to their houses by workers.

Currys spokesperson says that they are disappointed in being included in the Wooden Spoon Awards. This is especially true when our customer satisfaction scores have been increasing each year. Some customers had difficulty getting prompt resolutions during the peak of the pandemic.

The DWP has long delays

This has been an awful year for Department for Work and Pensions. Unforgiveable delays have been experienced by pensioners when they try to claim vital income. Thousands of retired people waited months earlier in the year for their state pension.

A pensioner stated that she was forced to visit a food bank because she was made wait for three months for the first payment.

This chaos does not just affect pension payouts. Others have been unable to get other critical benefits like Carer’s Allowance or Personal Independence Pays.

There are many stories of people who have been left waiting on hold for hours only to be cut off by the phone line.

The department continues to be affected by a terrible scandal involving pension underpayments. Around 134,000 pensioners have missed out on more than £1 billion, or an average of £8,900 each, owing to persistent administration blunders in the department.

But readers concerned that they might have been affected still worry they will be unable to answer the phone.

A spokesperson for the DWP stated that they understand the importance of their services, and took decisive steps to improve our processes and services. All outstanding state pension payments were issued where there was sufficient information. Also, we are correcting any state pension underpayments.

E.on’s poor effort

Major problems are facing the energy industry, as soaring prices for gas have caused many firms to fail. Your complaints regarding E.on go back before all of this. We therefore run April’s headline: “What on Earth is happening at E.on?”

Scores upon scores of concerned readers have reported that shock bills of thousands of pounds were issued to them despite having made their monthly payments on schedule. Some claims date back many years, and we stopped them. Customers have also been pursued by debt collectors. This has caused anxiety and stress.

In one case, a 93-year-old widow was doorstepped by the firm at 8.30 am on a Friday morning over a £1,000 debt she didn’t owe.

Others have reported that they are unable to communicate with the phone and were forced to pursue credit for refunds for several months.

According to an E.ON spokesperson, “Any complaint is one too many” and that customers should always be sorry if they are not treated with the respect and care they deserve.

HMRC: Not as helpful

Money Mail’s Wooden Spoon Awards have been presented almost every year. 

However, readers have complained about its poor customer service this year.

Long wait times for phone calls are common complaints. Just two weeks ago, our deputy editor Ben Wilkinson told how he had spent nearly two hours on the phone trying to speak to someone who could help him with an unexplained tax bill — to no avail.

Staff with poor training seem incapable of answering basic questions. They also fail to answer letters, never return calls, and routinely ignore complaints.

Angela MacDonald (Deputy Chief Executive of HMRC) says that she is sorry to not be able to reach more people faster. 

Over the last six months we have made improvements to our customer service. We are now answering phone calls faster and our customers are more satisfied with digital services. We appreciate your patience as we return to our original track.

Heartache at HSBC

It was among the banks that reopened normal bank hours after the pandemic.

Customers tell us that Barclays seems to be more interested in pushing customers online than providing the service they need face-to-face.

Its new plan will mean that only one-fifth of its branches will provide a complete service. Call-waiting is still a major problem, according to readers. Fraud victims were complaining earlier this year that they couldn’t get through to the bank’s dedicated helpline. One customer claimed that he was left waiting for twenty hours. The bank’s treatment of small clubs in the area after they closed their accounts or charged hiking fees has been a source of criticism.

A spokesperson for HSBC UK said that customers are important to them and they are proud of what their keyworkers have done to help them with Covid-19. 

We kept 98% of our branches open during the pandemic, and we reached more than 640,000 vulnerable customers in order to provide assistance.

It’s not good enough at NS&I

National Savings & Investments’ incessant push to force savers online is driving readers round the bend. The Treasury-backed bank, which was investigating plans to eliminate Premium Bond checks in June, had to rescind its original plan.

NS&I is also still recovering from a customer service meltdown, which saw call-waiting times go through the roof and left many savers unable to access to their money.

Chief executive Ian Ackerley was brought before the Treasury Select Committee in March. Ackerley admitted to the Treasury Select Committee that it would take until this summer for a large backlog of complaints to be cleared. We still receive regular calls from people who cannot get assistance with simple account problems or are having trouble tracking down their money.

Ian Ackerley states: “I regret deeply the impact that operational problems had on our customers, and I apologise for the fact that they didn’t receive the level of service they expect.” 

“We are now in a better place; our average speed for answering the phone is currently at just ten second, and we have eliminated all of our complaints backlog.”

Scottish Power frustrates

It is hard to think of a Wooden Spoon Awards without Scottish Power on the list. Yet complaints continue to pour in.

A standout concern is the emergence of shock bills that go back decades. This energy company is not slow to contact debt collectors. Customers who try to reach the company for assistance are often ignored.

In one case we reported this year, a series of shocking meter blunders over five years left a customer £7,000 out of pocket. 

In another instance, the company took money from a customer’s account for $20 months. This was 20 months after an owner had to evacuate the home due to a fire.

Scottish Power spokesperson said that they were disappointed by the inclusion in the list. This comes after a period of difficult times when we took on customers from failing energy suppliers. 

“But we’re continuing to work hard to make sure our customers have the best experience possible.”

Virgin Media leaves you in the dark

Virgin Media is the most complained about of all major telecoms companies.

Incorrect bills, appalling customer service, switching debacles, technical glitches, internet outages — you name it, we’ve heard it. 

It is amazing how many readers have difficulty communicating with the company, considering the business nature.

Official figures by watchdog Ofcom support your claims, with the firm responsible for more complaints than any other provider — by some distance — in the first three months of the year.

There is also the problem of unfair exit sanctions. The telecoms giant continues to charge customers as much as £240 if they are forced to cancel their contract when moving house because it cannot supply their new home.

No matter how many times I raise my concerns, the company refuses to compromise.

Virgin Media spokesperson says that while we have made significant strides in improving our customer experience, this year we recognize that there are still many things we can do and we regret not being able to provide all customers the quality care they deserve.  

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