Despite having had numerous issues with energy companies, I hadn’t heard of the Energy Ombudsman until I started working for Which? – I’m not alone. In fact, we could be missing out on £4m in compensation.
Some problems are quite well publicised – the PPI mis-selling fiasco, for instance. Thousands have flocked to complain about this, and if the banks don’t deal with their complaint, most people know they can seek help elsewhere – via the Financial Ombudsman Service.
So why is it that so few people raise energy complaints with the Energy Ombudsman? Well, part of the reason is that it’s just not well publicised.
Despite having many problems with energy companies myself, no one has ever told me that I can take my case further if I’m not satisfied. One energy supplier even sent me a letter telling me they were glad they’d solved my problem, even when they hadn’t solved it at all.
Bad energy complaints handling
But I’m not the only one in this boat. One of the main issues with energy complaints handling is that it is the company, rather than the customer, who decides when the complaint has been ‘resolved’. If this happens to you, like it did with me, you could be left feeling pretty helpless if you don’t know about the Ombudsman.
Given that our research today shows that the ‘big six’ energy suppliers – British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, SSE and Scottish Power – receive around four million complaints per year, I think it’s time something was done to make sure the complaints process works properly.
Our satisfaction survey of 8,271 Brits also found that 40% of energy customers have had a problem with a gas and electricity company in the last two years. Almost a quarter of these people didn’t make a complaint. Why?
There could be as much as £4m in compensation owed to customers – but they miss out on getting it because they don’t go to the Ombudsman. That’s a great shame, considering that the vast majority of complaints it receives are upheld, with an average payout of £125.
Can we fix it? Yes we can!
If I make a complaint I want it to be dealt with properly, reported properly, and most importantly, I want to know where to turn when the company doesn’t sort things out itself.
So the energy complaints system needs to drastically improve. We need to see suppliers giving us full, transparent information about the number of complaints they receive, and how many of those are escalated to the Ombudsman. Plus, a complaint should only be ‘resolved’ when the customer says it has been.
Most importantly, in my opinion, we need to make more people aware of the Energy Ombudsman – you don’t just have to take it lying down if your complaint is rejected.