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Energy complaint unresolved? Go to the Energy Ombudsman!

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.

Comments
Member

I have been trying to get my credit back from Scottish power since may of this year when I changed to edf.I have made god knows how many calls and keep getting fobbed of with one excuse after another.The first time I phoned they said I would have my credit refunded within five days,and every time I phone when I haven’t received it I get told it will be in the post within five days.
Please can you help me it is £572 I am due.As I am printing this message I have been on the phone one hour still in hold

Member
George Fullard says:
24 June 2015

I switched to Extra Energy in march 2014 , paying by D.D. of £141 per month, the 7th payment was taken on the 1/5/2015 making me £987 in credit. Despite several ptone calls & emails I have not receved a bill. I have from 4/6/2015 transferred my account to GB energy, still waiting for a bill. I am also going to cancel my D.D to stop them getting hold of any more of my money.

Member
Donna Ball says:
21 July 2015

We switched from OVO on the 2nd February 2015 and are still waiting for the final bill.
They have said that our smart meter was installed to the wrong tariff. It is going to take several weeks to resolve.

This was their response today (it took almost a month of chasing to get to this stage):

Hello Donna,

As promised I am writing to give you an update on when you can expect your final bill to be issued. My colleague has contacted the industry and requested the correct information. He has advised me that it will take roughly two weeks for them to release the corrected information.

Following the receipt of this we will then have to initiate a ‘read dispute’ to correct your closing readings and make them a single rate reading. This process involves agreeing the reading with your new supplier. I have been advised that this can take between 12 and 16 weeks. Once this reading is agreed we can the issue your final statement.

This is getting stupid. How can it take so long to issue a bill. Its not our fault that the engineer fitted the meter incorrectly. Last year OVO forgot to bill us for Gas for a period of 6 months and dropped us with a hefty bill which we cleared and decided to switch. Am I right in thinking that we can contact the Ombudsman about this? At this rate we will be lucky if it is resolved before the end of this year… and then we plan on moving house so no doubt it will complicate things further.

Member

Hi
I having some problems with the ombudsman who seems to be siding with Scottish Power. In short my notes of an event arising from which the company imposed exit fees contradict the notes of the provider. I am told phone recording are not kept beyond an unspecified time. Exit fees are £100 and I am seeking reimbursement plus good will gesture. Ombudsman accepts SP’s notes but has not sought mine and has offered £100 as a good will gesture. Should I move on?
Gerard Marshall

Member
Unhappy energy customer says:
12 January 2016

In my experience, the ombudsman themselves need hauling over. The prolong complaints, they don’t come up with satisfactory deals, and they make them with the company. They give short time spans for us but allow the company to go away for weeks. Staff are often obtuse and misrepresent the case. I have not used any ombudsman without needing to complain about their own service. I’ve had to wait 1-2 years whilst an urgent matter, including my energy bill, escalates. They are also keen to find ways to make customers pay and ways to reject the case under terms like “business decision.” I have often resolved cases with energy companies – for bad service, misbilling, slow and no replies, and poor support when their high bills are too much to clear quickly – privately. Ironically, I found the big 6 better ultimately to work with than the smaller supposedly ethical energy companies like Co-op. I was frankly disgusted with their attitude and find them not ethical or different at all.