EDF ENERGY is strengthening its position in the North-East - bucking the recent trend for job losses in the customer services sector.

The firm, formerly London Electricity, has announced that its customer services centre at Doxford International Business Park, Sunderland, is to become a national centre of excellence for customer billing work.

The move follows a re-structuring of the customer services work undertaken in the company's three customer service centres in Sunderland, Hove and Exeter.

As a result, EDF Energy's 1,100 staff in Sunderland will become responsible for distributing nearly 30 million energy bills each year, worth more than £2bn.

The extra work will complement the management, administration and call handling activities already undertaken at the centre, which sees more than three million customer inquiries answered each year.

EDF Energy handles more than five million customer accounts nationally, mainly in London the South East and South West of England.

As part of the Doxford centre's status, it will also be involved in the company's new links with the Nectar rewards programme, following EDF Energy's appointment as the exclusive energy partner with the customer loyalty scheme.

John Davies, deputy managing director, EDF Energy Customer Services, and head of the Doxford facility, said: "These moves will reinforce our presence in the North-East and confirm our continued commitment to maintaining our customer services operations here in Sunderland."

The customer services sector has been hit by a string of recent job losses with Lloyds TSB announcing only last month that it was transferring its operation at Newcastle to India with the loss of 980 jobs.