How to make a complaint about your energy supplier

Last updated: 10 September 2020

In this guide, you’ll learn the following:

  • What kind of things can I complain about?

  • Should I complain to my energy supplier or network distributor?

  • How do I complain directly to my energy supplier?

  • Can I make use of the Citizens Advice consumer service?

  • How do I complain to the Energy Ombudsman?

What kind of things can I complain about?

There are several reasons to make a complaint – the following is a non-exhaustive list of good reasons to take things further:

  • Issues with your energy bills: mistakes, inaccurate meter readings, missing bills, backdated charges

  • Switching supplier takes longer than the 21 days promised

  • Feeling you’ve been mis-sold electricity or gas

  • Receiving poor – or non-existent – customer support

  • Missed appointments to work on your energy supply

  • Having your energy supply cut off without good reason

  • Going without power for longer than a set period.

Should I complain to my energy supplier or network distributor?

First, make sure you know who to approach with your complaint. If your issue is about a power cut, you’ll need to get in touch with your energy distribution network and not your supplier. You can find out who your electricity network operator is on the Energy Networks Association website.

For planned power cuts, which may occur if the network carries out works for example, you need to be given 48 hours’ notice or you will be due £30 compensation. For gas cuts you will be given five days’ notice and will be entitled to £20 if you were not warned.

Any other issue, such as those to do with billing, faulty meters, or poor service, should be dealt with by your energy supplier’s customer support team directly.

How do I complain directly to my energy supplier?

The first step in any energy supplier complaint is to contact your supplier directly via its customer support team directly, via email, letter, or phone call. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to resolve matters to your satisfaction quickly and without rancour.

If you phone, make sure to follow up with a letter or email to create a paper trial complete with timestamp and the details of what was discussed. This is especially useful if your issue is complex. Remember to keep your customer number close at hand and ask for a reference number for your case once it’s been opened, remembering to always quote it in future correspondence. 

Make a note of the time and date you make initial contact, the name of the person you speak to, and the issue you’re calling about. Your supplier may ask for further information or evidence, like a photo of a broken meter, for example, and will let you know what the next steps are, such as submitting the photo. If you send this evidence via post, then consider registered mail so you’ll have proof that it was both sent and received. 

Never send the original copies of any evidence you gather and, where possible, keep timestamps (digital files will do this automatically). If you send bills as digital photos, then make sure no key information has been cropped out. 

Depending on the nature of your complaint, these initial stages could prove crucial if you’re forced to take things further. 

Can I make use of the Citizens Advice consumer service?

Citizens Advice is a charity, so you’ll only be able to ask it to step in and help with your case directly if you’re considered a vulnerable customer. What the charity can provide for anyone looking to complain, however, fair and impartial advice about how to take your complaint further. You can read comprehensive information about your rights and how to deal with things such as increased rates and switching energy suppliers, as well as access useful letter templates for energy supplier complaints.

You can contact the service asking for advice on energy supplier complaints by phone or online chat, or visit a local branch for a face-to-face consultation. Be sure to check its online hub page where there’s a dedicated Citizens Advice energy supply section to see if you can find the answer on the website beforehand.

  • Advice line: 03444 111 444

  • Text relay: 03444 111 445

(Lines open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday)

How do I complain to the Energy Ombudsman? 

Once you’ve contacted your supplier’s customer support team with your issue, it should be resolved within eight weeks for big six suppliers, and 12 weeks for smaller energy suppliers. If your provider fails to resolve your issue, or says it’s deadlocked, your next step is to contact the Energy Ombudsman. 

This official watchdog is the most authoritative body you can approach with your energy supplier complaints. You should contact the gas and electricity ombudsman with your grievance if:

  • Your supplier has not responded

  • Your supplier has responded but not resolved your issue satisfactorily 

  • You’re in still the process of resolving your issue and it’s been more than eight weeks (12 weeks for smaller suppliers) since first contact

  • You have received a deadlock letter (you can write to your supplier requesting this so you can forward it to the ombudsman)

The ombudsman will approach the supplier on your behalf. Once you’ve asked the ombudsman to take up your energy supplier complaints, you can expect to:

  • Resolve the issue

  • See that the supplier apologises

  • Ensure the supplier responds and explains the issue

In some cases, the ombudsman stepping in will also encourage your supplier to provide financial compensation such as refunds or goodwill gestures, but don’t assume this will always be the case.

What’s the procedure for complaining about business energy?

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 you can probably expect more of an effort to be made when it comes to retaining your custom than on your personal account. That said, you shouldn’t rule out the idea of switching if you find that you are unhappy with your current supplier.

What if I have a problem switching energy supplier?

If your complaints are about prices – or if your energy supplier complaints mean you no longer wish to remain a customer – the simplest thing to do is switch. It’s certainly a simpler procedure than following a particularly grievous complaint from beginning to end. If you use a switching service, simply 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 at least some of the cost to welcome you to one of their plans. 

If your switch doesn’t go smoothly, you’ll be pleased to learn this is also grounds to take a complaint to the electricity and gas ombudsman. Errors such as not having your credit refunded by your old supplier to issues with bills can be pursued on your behalf to find a resolution. 

What is Ofgem’s role?

Ofgem is the government regulatory body for energy suppliers in the UK – there’s no Ofgem complaints process per se – that’s the job of the Energy Ombudsman. Its role is to ensure that energy companies operate in a legal and fair way. It also encourages competition, thereby ensuring better deals for customers, and has the power to fine energy suppliers who mis-sell energy or who fall short with their customer support.

Ofgem also supplies a safety net to customers when energy companies go out of business. If this happens, you’re not left without power and you’ll be moved to a new supplier with as little disruption as possible. Ofgem asks suppliers to bid for new customers, so a competitive price is always assured.

While Ofgem doesn’t have a direct role in energy supplier complaints, examining the Ofgem fines and warnings issued to a specific 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 you cannot be charged for gas and electricity used more than 12 months ago if you’ve not correctly been billed by your supplier (some exclusions apply, such as if you’ve prevented meter readings being taken on the supplier’s behalf). Neither can you be charged for more than 12 months’ energy usage in a single bill. 

What are my energy rights?

It’s important to know your rights before you launch any complaint with your energy supplier, so you know precisely where you stand. Also, you may not even be aware that you’re 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’re 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’re 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 when making a purchase. If you think your energy supplier has not done so, you can approach the ombudsman. 

Ultimately, lodging a complaint isn’t as difficult as you might assume, and knowing your rights could result in a quick resolution to your issue.

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Published on Wed 23 Oct 2019 03.30 GMT