How to get power cut compensation

What do I do in a power cut?

Whether it’s planned or not, a power cut can cause frustration. Ofgem provides clear rules regarding financial compensation for energy consumers to alleviate the stress. If you’ve experienced a cut lasting longer than 24 hours, you may be owed upwards of £75 in compensation. Find out whether you’re eligible for a power cut refund below. 

Who should I contact during a power cut?

When the lights go out, your daily routine is impacted in numerous ways. You can’t charge your phone, food spoils in the refrigerator, and electric-powered showers are a no-go. While Britain’s network is reliable, power cuts do happen from time to time. 

Severe weather is one of the primary causes of unplanned power cuts, damaging power lines and substations. If your power’s gone out and you’ve spotted dangerous damage to these network components, here’s who to contact: 

  • Online: 

  • Telephone: 105 (a freephone number in England, Scotland and Wales)

  • Emergency Services: 999 (in the event of an immediate danger to life)

The 105 freephone number is applicable no matter who supplies your electricity. Its operators will put your call through to the relevant local network operator, responsible for managing the wires, substations and cables in your area. You’ll find more tips and can view the power cut checker on the 105 website. 

Who is responsible for a power cut?

From lightning storms to scheduled maintenance, there are many causes of a power cut. If the power outage is due to your household’s actions, you won’t have any right to compensation. Examples could include damage to the wires during works on your home, a tripped fuse or an unpaid electricity bill. On the other hand, if the outage is due to outside forces, your local electricity distributor or gas transporter will be held responsible. 

Understanding electricity distributors 

The electricity distribution company is separate from your main energy supplier. This type of network operator owns, maintains and operates the cables and towers that transmit electricity from the national network into your city, town or village. As a result, they’ll be held responsible should there be a power cut in the area. 

Energy suppliers serve as the middlemen between you and the distribution company – they have no hand in actually operating the physical network. If you’re not sure who your electricity distribution company is, you can look at your utility bill or search for their details on the Ofgem website.  

Electricity power cut compensation

There are several variables that will determine your eligibility for electricity power cut compensation. 

  • Planned vs Unplanned – For planned cuts to supply, your electricity distributor is required to give you two days of notice. If they fail to notify you within this timeframe, you’ll be eligible for £30 in compensation provided you file your claim within one month. When a power cut is unscheduled, the amount you’re owed will depend on how widespread the power cut was, and whether or not it was caused by severe weather. 

  • Number of homes – If fewer than 5,000 homes lost power, you’ll receive £75 for outages lasting longer than 12 hours. Past this point, you’ll receive an additional £35 for each 12-hour period. If more than 5,000 homes were impacted, you’ll be eligible for the same amount. However, there’s a maximum claim of £300. 

  • Severe weather – When power cuts are caused by bad weather, it doesn’t matter how many homes were affected. You also have to wait for a longer period of time before you’re entitled to any compensation. This will depend on the storm’s power and damage caused. 

For category one severe weather, the distributor company has 24 hours to restore the area’s supply. If the power is off for longer than 24 hours, you’ll be eligible to claim back £70, and you can then add another £70 for each additional 12-hour period. 

In category two storms, the company has a 48-hour grace period to get the lights back on. After this, the compensation amounts are the same as before - £70 after 48 hours, plus £70 for each 12-hour period that follows. 

Severe weather categories are related to the number of faults rather than the severity of the storm, so you won’t know what you’re entitled to by checking the weather report. It’s also important to note that the compensation cap is £700 for all weather-related power cuts. 

Gas power cut refunds

The company responsible for gas pipes in your area is called the gas transporter. As with electricity cuts, if there are any planned interruptions to supply the company is responsible for notifying customers. They must provide at least five days’ notice of a planned outage, or you’ll be able to claim £30 within 30 days. 

Aside from this, there are fewer variables with gas than you’ll find with electricity. The amount of compensation you’re eligible for will simply depend on the length of the outage - £30 once you pass the 24-hour mark, with another £30 for each 24-hour period afterwards. The gas transporter will also be responsible for arranging assistance if you’re on the Priority Services Register. They’ll need to help provide an alternative source for heating and cooking. 

Power cuts due to a faulty meter

Do you have a prepayment meter? If your energy is cut off due to a fault with the meter, contact your supplier rather than the electricity distributor. They’ll be responsible for fixing it within a reasonable timeframe. There are few warning signs that something’s wrong with your meter. 

If the meter’s screen is blank or you see an error message like ‘call help’, chances are high there’s a fault. You’ll need to notify your supplier straight away to avoid losing power. An engineer must be sent out within three hours on a working day, or four hours on a non-working day. In the meantime, the supplier should provide you with replacement credits. 

If they don’t take action within this timeframe, you’ll be owed £30 compensation within 10 working days. When payment is late, they’ll owe you an additional £30 late fee.  

Multiple interruptions to supply

Multiple power cuts over a short period of time indicate that there are problems with the distributor’s network, or even supply shortages. This is a more complex problem than weather-related interruptions, and the rules for compensation aren’t quite as clear-cut. 

Compensation depends on the frequency of interruptions. Generally, you’ll have experienced at least three hours of power loss on a minimum of four occasions spread out over the year before you’re eligible for any compensation. The amount will vary depending on the type, severity and frequency of the cuts, ranging from £30 to £75. If you’re a business customer, the compensation threshold increases to £150. 

How to claim your power cut refund

The first step is to contact your area electricity distributor or gas transporter, depending on the type of cut you’ve experienced. You can find these on the Energy Networks Association website by typing your postcode into the search box.  

  • Filing a claim – In the case of bad weather or for those on the Priority Services Register, there’s no need to make a claim. In all other cases, you can supply your details to the electricity distributor or gas transporter. They’ll send the power cut refund to your energy supplier, who will credit it to your account. You can also ask the company to pay you directly if preferred. Customers with prepayment meters may receive credits or vouchers. 

  • When to expect payment – You should receive your money within 10 days of filing your claim, although power cuts caused by bad weather may follow a different timeframe. If you’re not paid on time, you’ll be able to claim an additional £30 as a late payment fee. For all disputes related to power cut compensation and late payments, you can turn to your energy ombudsman. 

Compensation after a power cut in Northern Ireland

The rules mentioned above are set by industry regulator Ofgem, and apply only to those living in Wales, England or Scotland. If you live in Northern Ireland, you’ll be dealing with Northern Ireland Electricity Networks, governed by the country’s own Utility Regulator. The legislation is slightly different, recognising exceptional events like severe storms and allowing for exemptions. There’s no guarantee that you’ll receive a standard compensation payment as you would under Ofgem regulations. Claims can be made online and are determined on a case-by-case basis. 

Losing gas and electricity is inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst, so be sure to file for your power cut refund. It’s well worth making a note of the electricity distributor and gas transporter in your area in advance, so you have this information to hand when you need to make a claim. 

Ben GallizziEnergy Expert - Oct 23rd 2019