How to complain about hidden energy savings
Energy prices have plummeted recently, but that doesn’t mean these savings are being passed on to customers.
If you find that you need a response from your energy company, here’s how to get complaints about electricity suppliers or gas providers heard.
Complaints about electricity supplier v energy network
First, make sure you know who to approach. If your issue is about a power cut, it’s your energy distribution network and not your supplier. Find who your electricity network operator is on the Energy Networks Association website.
Other issues, such as billing, faulty meters or poor service, should be dealt with by your energy supplier’s customer support team directly.
Contact the customer support team. It’s recommended that you combine a phone call with a follow-up email or letter, as this creates a paper trail complete with time stamp and details of what was discussed.
Remember to always have your customer number and ask for a reference number for your case, for use in correspondence.
Make a note of the time and date you make initial contact, who you speak to, and the issue you are calling about.
Your supplier may require some sort of evidence. If you are sending this via post, then consider using registered mail as proof it was sent.
Never send original copies of any evidence and, where possible, keep time stamps. If you send bills as digital photos, make sure no key information is cropped out.
Contact the Citizens Advice consumer service
Citizens Advice is a charity, so will only help with a full case for a vulnerable customer. It will, however, provide comprehensive coverage of your rights and how to deal with things such as increased rates and switching energy suppliers.
You can contact the service by phone or online chat or visit a local branch for a consultation.
Check its online hub page to see if you can find the answer to your dilemma there before making contact. Advice line: 03444 111 444 Text relay: 03444 111 445 The Energy Ombudsman
Once you have contacted your supplier’s customer support team with your issue, it should be resolved within eight weeks for big six suppliers, and 12 for smaller energy suppliers.
If your provider has not resolved your issue or says it is deadlocked, you can contact the Energy Ombudsman.
You should contact the ombudsman with your grievance if: your supplier has not responded, if your supplier has responded but not resolved your issue satisfactorily, if you are in the process of resolving your issue and it has been more than eight weeks since first contact, or if you have received a deadlock letter.
The ombudsman will approach the supplier on your behalf. You can then expect to have the issue resolved, see that the supplier apologises, and ensure that the supplier responds and explains the issue.
In some cases, involving the ombudsman will encourage your supplier to provide financial compensation but this is not guaranteed.
Business energy complaints
You can also register energy supplier complaints for business energy plans and the process is the same. Business energy plans are usually prized highly by providers so may be given precedence.
Switching energy suppliers
If your complaints are about prices, or if your energy supplier complaints have left you no longer wanting to use their services, you should consider switching.
Switching energy suppliers is simple, far simpler than following a grievous complaint from beginning to end.
If you use a switching service, all you have to do is authorise the switch and your new supplier will take care of the rest.
Beware of exit fees when you do go for a switch, although some new suppliers will offer to pay a portion of the cost to welcome you to one of its plans.
If you find that your switch hasn’t been smooth, this is also grounds to take a complaint to the ombudsman. Errors such as not having your credit refunded by your old supplier, to issues with bills, can be pursued on your behalf.Ofgem
Ofgem is the government regulatory body for energy suppliers in the UK. Its job is to ensure that energy companies are operating in a legal and fair way.
It encourages competition among companies, thereby ensuring customers better deals, and has the power to fine energy suppliers who mis-sell energy or do not perform well enough with customer support.
Ofgem also supplies a safety net to customers when energy companies go out of business so that they are not left without power, and will move customers to a new supplier. Ofgem asks suppliers to bid for new customers, so a competitive price is assured.
While Ofgem doesn’t have a direct role in energy supplier complaints on a customer level, looking at the Ofgem fines and warnings issued to a particular supplier is a reliable way of assessing its performance if you’re looking to switch.
You should also consult the Ofgem site to see what your position is when it comes to billing. For example, its back-billing rules state that if your supplier has not sent you a bill for more than a year, along with a few other factors, you do not have to pay.
Your energy rights
It’s important to know your rights before you launch any energy supplier complaints, so you know precisely where you stand.
Alternatively, you may not even know you are within your rights to make a complaint about electricity suppliers or gas providers.
Some of the most important general rights you should be aware of include:
You are entitled to a 14-day cooling-off period after signing up to a new provider, where you can change your mind without repercussion.
If you are in a vulnerable group (elderly, suffering from long-term illness) you can request that you are placed on your supplier’s priority services register. Benefits include free gas checks and being made a priority for reconnection in the event of a power cut.
The Ofgem Standards of Conduct mean that you should always be supplied with accurate information in order to make your purchasing decision.
If you think your energy supplier has not done so, you can approach the ombudsman.
This is the advice from Linda Dodge, an energy expert from SaveOnEnergy, who adds that ultimately, lodging a complaint isn’t as difficult as you might assume, and knowing your rights could result in a quick and easy resolution.