How to make a complaint about your energy supplier

What's the best way to make a complaint about your energy supplier?

When things go wrong with your energy, it can be hard to know where to turn. From being overcharged on your bills to not receiving suitable customer support, there are several reasons for customers to make a complaint against their supplier. If you are in a situation where you need your energy company to respond, here’s how to get complaints about electricity suppliers or gas providers rolling.

Complaints about electricity supplier vs. energy network

First of all, make sure you know who to approach with your complaint. If your issue is about a power cut, you 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 £30 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.

Complain to your energy supplier directly

The first step in any energy supplier complaint should be going to your supplier directly. You should first try to contact its customer support team, as the issue you are facing may be easily resolved after an email, letter, or phone call. It’s recommended that you combine a phone call with another method, like a follow-up email or letter, as this creates a paper trail complete with time stamp and the details of what was discussed. This is especially useful if your issue is complex. Remember to always have your customer number to hand and ask for a reference number for your case once it has been opened, always quoting it in future correspondence. 

Make a note of the time and date you make initial contact, as well as the name of the person you speak to and the issue you are 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 of the next steps and how to submit it if necessary. 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 time stamps (digital files will do this automatically). If you send bills as digital photos, then make sure no key information is cropped out. 

Depending on the nature of your complaint, these initial stages can be significant if you have to take things further. 

Contact the Citizens Advice consumer service

Citizens Advice is a charity, so it will not be able to step in and help with your case directly unless you are considered a vulnerable customer. What this charity does provide, however, is comprehensive coverage of your rights and how to deal with things such as increased rates and switching energy suppliers, as well as 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 on energy suppliers to see if you can find the answer on the website beforehand. Citizens Advice offers fair and impartial advice about how to take your complaint further. 

Advice line: 03444 111 444

Text relay: 03444 111 445

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

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. 

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

  • Your supplier has not responded

  • Your supplier has responded but not resolved your issue satisfactorily 

  • You are in still the process of resolving your issue and it has been more than eight weeks 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 have asked the ombudsman to take up your energy supplier complaints, you can expect to:

  • Have the issue resolved

  • 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 this should not always be expected.

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 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.

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 particularly 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 to find a resolution. 

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 also 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 in its 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 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 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 are 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. 

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.

Bjorn GriffithDec 9th 2019