A reliable supply of gas and electricity is crucial for any modern home or business to function. From the ability to keep your family or workforce warm thanks to the gas-powered central heating to ensuing hot food can always be served with the aid of electric ovens and microwaves, these are the necessities you may not even think about until something goes wrong.
So, if you are left without an essential energy supply, and you don’t think you or your business has been treated fairly by your energy provider when it comes to finding a solution, before you look at switching to a new energy provider you may feel the need to make a complaint. However uncomfortable you find the process of making a complaint and despite how difficult the procedure appears, it is your right to make a complaint and be listened to if you feel your service hasn’t been up to the correct standard or you feel your provider is being unfair or unreasonable. After all, energy providers have a duty of care and a legal obligation to honour the contract you signed with them. If you feel they are not providing the service they promised, carry on reading for the need-to-know information about making effective energy supplier complaints.
From the initial stages of contacting your energy supplier directly to seeking professional help from Citizens Advice for domestic energy issues and even getting in touch with the official Energy Ombudsman to escalate your grievance with the help of an independent body, this guide will tell you everything you need to know when it comes to complaints against energy suppliers.
How to complain directly to your energy supplier
If you’re experiencing an issue with your energy supply or the service you are receiving from your provider, before making a formal complaint it is important to simply get in touch with your provider and attempt to resolve the issue informally. Problems may range from billing issues, such as an incorrect/unexplained charge on your recent bill or an unexpected hike in your rate, to issues with recently installed equipment, so it’s important to tell them exactly what your grievance is and explain what you would like them to do about it. If it’s only a minor issue, your provider might be able to sort it out then and there. Whether this issue is resolved at this stage or not, it is important that you keep a record of your call or correspondence. Note down the date and time that you initially got in touch, the name of the advisor you spoke to (if you called), and the exact details of the issues raised. This information may come in handy later if you decided to make a formal complaint.
If the issue is not resolved, or if you are not entirely satisfied with the actions taken to address the problem you have raised, lodging a formal complaint with the provider could be the next logical step. However, if you are not sure whether or not you have sufficient grounds to make a formal complaint against your energy company and you are dealing with domestic energy issues rather than commercial ones, you might want to consider contacting the Citizens Advice consumer helpline. This free and impartial service, which will be discussed in more detail later in this post, can provide you with useful information and advise you on the best way to handle your problem.
Making a formal complaint
If your grievance was not sufficiently dealt with through initial contact with your energy supplier, and you are still unhappy, you have the right to make a formal complaint. Power company complaints are common and are fairly straightforward to lodge, and all energy providers are required by law to assess and provide a response to any official complaint within either eight or 12 weeks of receiving it, depending on your provider.
If you want to make a format complaint, the first thing you need to do is gather any supporting evidence relating to the issue at hand. Naturally, what evidence you need to collect will depend on your specific issue. This could include items such as photos of faulty equipment, copies of previous correspondence you’ve had with your provider regarding the problem, copies of incorrect/unusual bills, etc. Once you have collected any relevant supporting evidence, it’s time to contact your provider.
As a customer, you have the right to make a complaint either over the phone, by email or in writing. All you need to do is visit your supplier’s website and search for the relevant contact information. Typically, this information can also be found on your energy bills and/or your original contract. If you choose to complain in writing, either via email or post, it’s worth noting that Citizens Advice can provide you with letter templates for a variety of common domestic complaints. These include complaints regarding the mis-selling of energy contracts, disputed charges, faulty equipment and more.
If you are with one of the ‘big six’ energy providers and still haven’t heard back from them after eight weeks, or you have had ongoing correspondence but believe the issue has been dealt with unsatisfactorily, you can take the complaint further. If you are not with a ‘big six’ provider, you may have to wait up to 12 weeks for a response before taking the complaint further.
How to get in touch with Citizens Advice
For domestic energy complaints, your first port of call if your energy company is not able to resolve your problem or a difference of opinion has developed regarding potential solutions is Citizens Advice.
A free service available to all, Citizens Advice can offer expert advice when it comes to any “policies and practices that affect people’s lives” – this includes making complaints about energy suppliers.
Citizens Advice will be able to clearly explain your rights and point you in the right direction regarding your complaint. While it’s worth noting that this organisation is a charity, and therefore cannot represent you or move your complaint forward on your behalf, they can provide you with priceless expert knowledge and guidance. This may include different ways to approach the issue with your provider or information relating to how you can take your grievance to the Energy Ombudsman.
To contact Citizens Advice regarding an energy provider complaint, call the consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 or fill in an online form here.
How to contact the Energy Ombudsman
If all else fails, after you have made initial contact with your provider, lodged a formal complaint and taken advice from Citizens Advice (if your grievance relates to a domestic energy supply), you may want to take your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman. This organisation is an independent arbitrator of disputes between energy providers and their customers, and is approved and overseen by the UK’s energy market regulator Ofgem. Arbitration services are free of charge for all domestic and micro-business energy consumers.
As previously mentioned, your complaint must have been outstanding or still unresolved after at least eight weeks if you’re with one of the big six providers or 12 weeks if you’re with a smaller energy provider. Typically, this will happen not because you haven’t heard back from your provider, but because you are not happy with the proposed solution to your complaint. If this is the case your provider will provide you with a ‘letter of deadlock’ outlining the entire case.
Whether you have ‘a letter of deadlock’ and are not happy with the outcome or you simply haven’t heard back from your provider eight or 12 weeks after making the complaint, you can contact the Energy Ombudsman who will open an investigation into the case on your behalf.
The Energy Ombudsman is completely impartial. This means that they will look into both sides of the case and make an unbiased and fair decision based on the findings of their investigation. If the Ombudsman finds in your favour and believes you have been dealt with unfairly, they can make your supplier reverse their initial decision and propose new solutions to your complaint.
To get in touch with the Energy Ombudsman, simply call their helpline on 0330 440 1624, write to Energy, P.O. Box 966, Warrington, WA4 9DF, or email email@example.com.
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