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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
COMPLAINEE 1 says:
3 March 2012

Plz note:the financial ombudsman have refused to deal with any financial issues that are caused by your energy supplier although the advise on this website tells you the f.o.s will they most defintely will not !!The advice on this website is highly unreliable….this information has come from the f.o.s themselves, they will not deal with any financial issues relating to any energy supplier!!..thankyou.

janet says:
3 March 2012

My energy supplier will not permit me to fill out a warm energy discount form…they will not allow me to speak to the dept who deals with disabled ppl and the forms..They have expressed i am indeed eligible…but they have not got any details on me but my name, address..but they dont know my disability…but i have been told that a manager has filled out a form for me!..(obviously they assume im to stupid to do it myself!..they have not even asked what my disability is!..and they know nothing about my circumstances!) without asking me what my situation is or what benefits im on or my disability or what heating i have in my home.!
I have pointed out that this could be viewed fraud because they have assumed the details without even consulthing me!..and i have not even seen the form or answered any of the questions!…are they physic?..I have complained as this is discrimination.
I feel they dont want me to apply as they have tried to put me off for a long time and i think its because they think im pretending to be disabled and ive offered to send proof…why should i ahve to send proof?…this is disgusting behaviour?.. and upset and im very offended because disabled does not mean im stupid or i cant read or write or have an intelligent conversation with someone!!, why do they assume we are all backward and cant speak for ourselves.I am very mad!

janet says:
3 March 2012

Sorry my spelling is bad!

Malcolm Fry says:
3 March 2012

The Department for Work and Pensions will have provided the basic info relating to your eligability, to your energy provider.

If you receive Guaranteed Pension Credit, this should be fully automatic, if you are with one of the “Big Six” suppliers. If you don’t get GPC (you don’t state your age), you may still get the discount, but different energy suppliers have different eligability criterea. The best place to get help with this is the relevant DWP department. Their telephone is 0845 6039439.

Steve says:
15 March 2012

Hi, I wrote to Npower in October to close my dual fuel account, already had 2 notifications that the bill outstanding was £226. I asked for a breakdown in my letter and advised of my forwarding address. I never got a response. I received a letter in Feb advising that I owed them almost £800 at my new address. i have provided proof of the date moved and the letter that I sent to close the account, but they still claim I owe this £800. I have a bill advissing that the balance is £226 in October 2011. Surely it cant be possible that I owe them this money?

Malcolm says:
15 March 2012

I take it the £800 refers to the old address? In your original letter to them, did you say you were moving, giving date, or did you just say you were leaving THEM? It sounds as if they were under the impression that you were just changing suppliers, and would have waited to get a “changeover” reading, before actually doing anything. In that case they would hold you liable for any usage, until they got a notification from the new occupier’s supplier. That assumes the new occupant is honest enough to open an account, rather than keep on using yours. The supplier may not be happy to write off energy used, in the meantime, but, provided you have PROOF that they were aware you were moving, on a specific date (with reasonable notice), the ombudsman will probably adjudicate a reasonable charge for what was used at the time you moved. It would help if you took readings on the day you moved, and submitted them to your supplier, AT THE TIME.

Steve says:
15 March 2012

Thats correct Malcolm, i stated clearly the date i was moving, my new address, and the current balance outstanding at the property. Provided them with a copy of the balance they sent me, a copy of the letter advising that i wanted to close the account and date i was moving etc, my new rental agreement showing the date i moved in to my new property. I unfortunately dont have any readings from the meter’s, but this was my first ever utilities account and was unaware this was the case

Malcolm says:
15 March 2012

If it was a rented property, you do have the advantage that the landlord would, in theory, be responsible for any usage, between you moving out, and a new tenant taking over responsibilty for energy usage. That assumes that the landlord was aware you had left, and you handed back responsibility, for the property, to him/her.

Your problem may be not having an agreed meter reading when you left. (for future reference, fill out a piece of paper, with the meter readings on, and get the landlord to sign, as a true record. Then send an email to your energy supplier, with those readings, and the name and address of the landlord. Then you will be covered against this sort of problem, next time.)

If the last bill, at old address, was fairly close to your leaving date, and was an ACTUAL reading (not an estimate), it should be possible for the supplier (or the ombudsman, if necessary) to work out the readings, when you left, with reasonable accuracy, to limit your liability. Your old landlord probably took a reading, himself, after you left. If you are on good terms with him, it may be worth asking him if he has those.

Linda says:
17 July 2012

Right – whose payroll is the ombudsman on?

S Hussain says:
20 December 2012

Having recieved this months invoice, 10 times higher than it normally is, I decided to call the complaints line, after 10 minutes on the phone the person I was speaking to decided to cut me off, so I called back in told the advisor what had just happened, he apolpgised and reassured me that the problem would be solved, 10 minutes later he cut me off!!! I then call Opus again, a lady answers the phone, I tell her what’s happened and she puts me through to credit control who say not to worry we’ll arrange for you to divide the payment and pay it in installments!!! NOT ONCE did anyone try to listen to the problem I have, Stick to well known companies such as British Gas!!!

[Hello, we’ve slightly edited this comment for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Customer Opus Energy says:
20 December 2012

Electricity

December 2012

£390.25

view/print

Electricity

November 2012

£29.41

view/print

Electricity

October 2012

£26.31

view/print

Electricity

September 2012

£28.25

view/print

New customers, don’t be suprised if this happens to you in a few months time!!!!!

Customer Opus Energy says:
20 December 2012

OPUS ENERGY

Electricity

December 2012

£390.25

view/print

Electricity

November 2012

£29.41

view/print

Electricity

October 2012

£26.31

view/print

Electricity

September 2012

£28.25

view/print

New customers, don’t be suprised if this happens to you in a few months time!!!!!

[We’ve edited this comment for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

I have never dealt with a worse company in all my business life! Really bad communication, misinformed staff, wasting my time!

Opus energy, took over a new property got the reading sent from me and landlord and they didn’t believe us, told me within out a solicitor stamp contract my tenancy wasn’t legal and they couldn’t take it as fact,

Sent photos of the meters and sent them, they still didn’t believe me even photographed it with the bill they sent with dates, after 15 phone call and hours of my time they agreed it and sent me a amended bill.

Now months later after all this time and energy they have started again even though I have been with another supplier for 4 mths they sent me a bill for £2800. A COMPLETE JOKE!

Who can I send the bill to for my time? They would only deal with me wasting the most expensive member of staff in the company!

Can I charge them?

patricia says:
6 March 2013

If switching to a new energy supplier, should the new supplier take direct debits out of your bank account two weeks before they actually start supplying your enery?

Christopher newby says:
1 May 2013

Hi

I met my girlfriend a year ago before I met her EDF energy lost her from there system she battled for 6 months to get a gas and electric bill when they finally sorted they slapped her with a bill for 1250 they said to pay 50 a month till it was paid now they have upped the monthly bill to 122 a month but the gas has not been used at all and we only use minimal electric as well

Matthew says:
4 July 2013

A good place to start comparing business energy prices is the Energy Advice Line who also report and comment on industry news – http://www.energyadviceline.org.uk

We are on prepaid with utilita and paying through our noses for electric, it seems as though every time we purchase electric part of it is paying for the previous tenants debt. We then decided to switch to another provider and utilita denied the other supplier to go ahead for reasons best known to them. We contacted utilita and informed them that we are on prepaid and we do not owe them any money, they advised that it is all clear and we can now switch. To my surprise they yet again denied us to switch and now we are using almost £20 every three days with them on prepaid. It seems they are forcing us to stay with them or is it that we are paying the previous tenants bill. We seem to be still using the same card number of the previous tenant and when queried it with utilita they say it is ok

Daniel says:
4 December 2013

Yes Matthew there are a number of websites that undertake business electricity and gas comparisons including http://www.powerexperts.co.uk for both fuels or http://www.businesselectricity.co.uk for just electricity. It’s always best to shop around but most certainly not accept the renewal letter sent from your current provider.

stephen t maslen says:
11 July 2014

I recieved a letter from energy ombudsman,stating he saw fit for e.on/to issue a final bill,although it wAs estimated!!
Obviously,a final bill should be EXACT !!
Any energy ombudsman jobs going????

Bob Wilson says:
17 July 2014

I have used the Ombudsman service twice, the second case has been going on since October 2013 and is still not resolved. In my opinion they are as useful as a chocolate teapot.Yes I am afraid to say yet again its Scottish Power or should I say Spanish “Iberdrola”. The Ombudsmen I am sure try to be unbiased, but last Monday 14 July 2014 an Ombudsman for energy made an appearance on Sky News, it was all very jovial and he made a comment that only 5% of the public use the service and he was very happy that more should use it, unfortunately Stephen Dixon did not press the Ombudsman on any details, of how effective they were, or did not quote any previous successes, that were front page news. What the Ombudsman did say quote “We have a very good working relationship with the energy companies”. I have heard others say “Cosy”. If we all write to our MP,s, Euro MP,s and most importantly the press we may get some justice. Remember the Banks were made to pay for miss selling products and services.

sunnyagain says:
27 July 2014

I have used the energy Ombudsman service, it was of no use I wholeheartedly agree with the chocolate teapot comment.

The Ombudsman merely reiterated what the utility company had already told me. I was told that being hounded by debt collection agencies after I had been sent several incorrect bills was out of their terms of reference.

who funds the energy ombudsman service? if it is the utility companies themselves then that explains a lot. It also leaves consumers high and dry

james says:
15 August 2014

Hi, I have just contacted SP as my one year tariff is coming to an end, only to be told I am £650 in debit. When I asked why my monthly payments hadn’t been adjusted (they took readings in March 6 months ago) they did not know. They have raised a complaint over this matter, any advice on what I should be doing? Cheers, James

Bob Wilson says:
17 August 2014

In reply to James, posted 15/8/14, Scottish Power promise to customers, is to review your
usage every three months, and make the adjustments on payment to reflex usage, so a case like yours does not happen. Even if the meter reader called more than once and you were out. they could have easily e mailed you, to send in your own readings, and although you would have had a higher monthly charge, it would not have come as a great lump sum you have to find. In my view the customer service you have received from SP has not been up to standard, see what SP have to offer re your complaint, if it is not to your satisfaction you can go to the “Ombudsman for energy”.

james says:
17 August 2014

Cheers Bob, I agree, will follow it up

Hi James

Yes Bob is right. I would add: make sure Scottish Power has filled an official complaint so that it is registered and counted as such and will start the 8-week period during which SP can resolve it. If it doesn’t resolve it to your satisfaction or sends you a deadlock letter, you can then take it to the Energy Ombudsman.

Good luck with it and keep us posted on progress.

Sylvia

Duncan Foley says:
25 August 2014

Hello, We took British Gas to the ombudsman despite dealing with British Gas for three years proving the readings and amounts charged were incorrect,as the readings and charges before and after this period proved it, despite this the Ombudsman claimed that as British Gas has a start and end reading the amount owed was due but awarded us the £100 and in the final decision instructed British Gas to write a letter of apology and to reinstate the payment plan originally set up,we received a letter from the Ombudsman saying both parties had agreed and now the 28 days from the date of the letter has passed (which was his time frame for British Gas to respond with the above)and as usual nothing from British Gas, does anyone know if we can do anything to impose a daily penalty or take steps to ” penalise ” them, or where do we go now and to who as we feel they should be made to reduce the amount daily for their usual efficiency… thank you.