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Dial India for power in UK

- Call centre shift
A demonstrator holds a placard as a group marches to the headquarters of Npower during a protest against energy prices in London on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Nov. 27: UK energy giant Npower is to announce plans to outsource its call centre operation on Thursday, triggering hundreds of job cuts just days after regulators revealed soaring profits among the “Big Six”.

Insiders told The Daily Telegraph that front-line call centre operations will be outsourced to a third party in the UK with the back-office operations off-shored to India.

The restructuring will impact 2,000 staff, but actual job losses will be kept to 1,000 as the bulk of front-line workers are being transferred rather than being made redundant.

Union leaders fear the Npower call centre in Thornaby, near Middlesbrough, is “almost certain” to close. Outsourcing giant Capita is expected to take on the front line call centre work.

Neither Npower, the Unison or GMB union would comment. But emails from the company’s HR manager to union leaders three weeks ago acknowledged the “coming months would be challenging for all parties, not least of all our people”.

The restructuring will follow a string of cost-saving announcements from Npower since RWE — its German owner — earlier this month announced plans to axe 6,750 jobs across Europe and warned of lower-than-expected profits for 2013.

Within days, Npower had sold 770,000 customer accounts to Telecom Plus, owners of Utility Warehouse. Yesterday, the company blamed “technical” difficulties for a decision to axe a 4bn (Rs 40,552cr) wind farm off the Devon coast, despite having signed up to the project five years ago.

O2, the mobile phone operator, transferred its front line call centre staff to Capita in a 10-year deal worth 1.2 bn (Rs 12,166cr) this summer.

Internal documents at Capita in April claimed that one of the biggest cost benefits for O2 would be a 207m (Rs 2,097cr) saving from “call reduction” and a further 216m (Rs 2,225cr) from “site rationalisation and support”.

Npower was last week named the most complained about energy firm, receiving almost three times as many complaints as its closest rival.

Consumer Futures said Npower was receiving 202 complaints for every 100,000 customers in the three months from April to June this year.

At the time, Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at the watchdog, said: “Energy companies have repeatedly said they want to rebuild consumer trust. Good customer service and complaints handling are key ingredients to achieving this and suppliers still have a long way to go.”

Earlier this week, industry regulator Ofgem said profits at the Big Six energy suppliers rose 75 per cent last year as shivering Britons turned up the heating to cope with one of the coldest winters on record.