In this guide you’ll get answers to the following questions:
What rights do I have as an energy customer?
What role does the Energy Ombudsman play?
What can I do if I’m mis-sold a product?
Energy consumer rights: FAQ
You’re protected from all kinds of bad behaviour, such as being mis-sold energy packages, poor or non-existent customer support, being switched to a new supplier without your permission, or being overcharged for your energy. Other protections include being able to claim compensation in the event of certain power outages.
Energy consumer rights are regulated by Ofgem, which acts “where necessary to protect consumers’ interests”. It’s responsible for investigating energy companies’ behaviour across a range of issues, one of which is over possible breaches of consumer protection regulations.
Your rights go beyond simple protection against bad behaviour. You’re also entitled to the following:
14-day cooling-off period when switching supplier – during this time, you’re free to change your mind without penalty.
Inclusion on the Priority Services Register if you’re in a qualifying vulnerable group.
Entitlement to accurate information when making a purchase as per the Ofgem Standards of Conduct.
Your supplier should send you a copy of these rights once a year – if you need clarification or can’t find a copy of your rights, visit Citizens Advice for further help.
In the first event, you should always seek to resolve the issue directly with your supplier, but if it’s unable to resolve the issue to your satisfaction, you’ll be able to get outside help through the Energy Ombudsman.
Ofgem’s approved independent arbiter for energy disputes is the Energy Ombudsman – so far, it’s helped over 90,000 customers resolve complaints about their energy.
If you’re unable to rectify your complaint with your supplier, then you can escalate your case to the Ombudsman. Some of its most commonly dealt-with complaints include:
Disputes or problems with energy bills
Issues when switching supplier
Complaints over sales procedures, including doorstep sales
Disruptions to supply
Problems with various energy schemes, such as the Green Deal or Feed-in Tariffs.
One of the most common disputes arises over how a product, service or contract has been sold. Examples include when being switched to a new provider without prior permission (verbal or written), being set a direct debit amount that’s too low to meet your consumption (resulting in the accruement of debt), not being given information about your tariff or rate when signing for a new product, or if you’re not told that the deal you’ve signed up for comes with early-exit penalties.
These are all examples of rules – whether dictated by Ofgem or followed voluntarily – where you have recourse to complain.
The following reveals how to deal with common complaints or issues you may face:
The Erroneous Transfer Customer Charter makes it clear this behaviour isn’t acceptable – only you may switch suppliers at any time. It also reveals the steps you need to follow; if they’re not adhered to, make a complaint:
Contact either old or new supplier – both are at least partially responsible.
Expect a written response within five working days of your first contact, and you should be switched back to your old supplier after 20 working days – complete with written confirmation.
The new supplier shouldn’t issue you with any bills during this period.
NOTE: There is one instance where you can be switched without your permission, and that’s when your current supplier ceases trading. In this instance, Ofgem is empowered to move all customers of the former supplier to a new supplier to ensure your supply isn’t interrupted. You’ll be informed of the change in the advance, and are free to switch to another supplier at any time – even if you were on a fixed-rate deal with early exit penalties – although Ofgem usually recommends waiting until the initial transfer is complete before doing so.
This is permissible, so long as you’re not on a fixed-rate contract where no price rises have been factored into the tariff. The wholesale price of energy fluctuates on a daily – even hourly – basis, and your supplier is free to pass on both price rises and drops to you through changes to its variable tariffs, subject to the Ofgem price cap.
Note, however, that you should receive at least 30 days’ notice of such changes, giving you time to compare energy deals and switch to either a cheaper tariff or a fixed-rate tariff where the price will be locked for the duration of your contract to protect you from price fluctuations.
Your energy supplier is permitted to adjust your monthly direct debit payments to ensure you’re not overpaying (or underpaying) for your energy. You are, however, protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee, which stipulates you should be given a minimum of 10 days’ notice before any changes are applied; if you don’t receive this, dispute the charge with your bank.
Suppliers shouldn’t arbitrarily change direct debit payments without good reason – the best way to avoid this is to keep on top of your bills by submitting regular meter readings, which will also give you extra ammunition should you wish to dispute inaccurate energy bills.
We’ve an entire section dedicated to providing helpful tips and advice about energy debt if you’re struggling to meet the cost of your energy. Long story short, contact your supplier as soon as possible as they are obliged to work with you to provide you with a payment plan that’s both sensible and affordable.
You may find yourself moved to a prepayment meter so that you pay in advance for the energy you use to avoid falling further into arrears – a proportion of your top-up credit is then diverted to paying off your existing debt.
You may also be eligible to receive additional funding in the form of various government grants, many of which are designed to help you with the additional costs accrued over the winter period. These come in the form of various cash payments such as the Warm Home Discount scheme.
Another scheme that helps across the course of an entire year is the Fuel Direct scheme, which you may be eligible for if you currently claim any of the following benefits:
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Yes, in extreme circumstances you may be disconnected from your supply through non-payment. However, your supplier cannot disconnect you without first obtaining a warrant, and you’ll receive a disconnection notice at least 28 days after your last bill. In addition, your supplier is legally bound to send you written notice seven days before it disconnects you.
There are exceptions – such as for pensioners living alone or with children under five years old – that apply during the colder winter months (1 October-31 March) but check with your supplier as the scheme is voluntary.
You may cancel a recent switch up to 14 days after it’s been initiated, so long as the agreement was made in your home or a public space (note, contracts aren’t always put in writing). You’re also protected by this 14-day cooling-off period if you signed up over the phone or online – including through a switching service – thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations and the Energy Sure voluntary code, signed by all major providers. One further loophole that allows you to cancel is if the agent selling you the plan failed to give you any information revealing who to contact for independent advice over your contract.
You should have been made aware of any exit penalties when you signed up for the contract – these are typically only found in most (but not all) fixed-rate tariffs where in return for price security, you accept an exit fee if you leave the tariff before the switching window opens (42-49 days before the tariff’s end date).
If you’re moving home and you’re able to move both your supplier and tariff with you, you shouldn’t be charged an exit fee – raise a complaint with your supplier if it tries to charge you such a fee even though you’re remaining on the same tariff with it.
Yes – check out our complete guide (below) to see what processes you can follow to get a satisfactory resolution.
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