The Energy Ombudsman is a free and impartial service provided by the Ombudsman Services who is an independent complaint resolution service who handle complaints between consumers and companies outside of the courts.
Who is the Ombudsman Services?
The Ombudsman Services is a national scheme provided by the private sector whose services are designed to resolve complaints about companies that sign up to its scheme. The Ombudsman Services is impartial from the companies it serves and from the government. The service it provides is free of charge for customers.
The Ombudsman Services was founded in 2002 and it now provides dispute resolution to a range of sectors including energy, communications, and property.
The Role of the Energy Ombudsman
The Energy Ombudsman service has been established to handle unresolved complaints that customers have with their gas or electricity company. Ofgem has approved them to handle complaints between customers and energy companies independently.
Their service is provided free and impartially. More recently their services have been extended to also include complaints regarding the provision of the Green Deal and some district heating or communal heating schemes where their operators have signed up to their scheme.
The Energy Ombudsman’s role is to adjudicate the dispute and investigate the issue independently using the facts of the case in order to resolve the complaint. They will give a decision which is binding on the energy company and enforceable in a court of law. It operates under the terms of the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.
They also provide advice and support on a range of energy-related issues including advice on common complaints and how to make a complaint.
Who Can Use the Energy Ombudsman Service?
All domestic gas and electricity supply customers are eligible to use the Energy Ombudsman service free of charge.
Micro businesses are also eligible to use the Energy Ombudsman service free of charge. The qualifying criteria for a micro business is a company whose annual electricity consumption is below 100,000 kWh or annual gas consumption is below 293,000 kWh. Or has fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover less than £2 million.
What Complaints Can the Energy Ombudsman Handle?
In regards to the energy sector, the Ombudsman Services can handle the following complaints once your complaint has been made to the energy company concerned and it has exceeded eight weeks since it was made, or it meets the required criteria (see When Can You Contact the Energy Ombudsman section):
- Issues about your gas or electricity billing
- Issues regarding an energy company’s sales activity such as how it sold to you which includes doorstep sales
- Issues that have occurred whilst switching gas or electricity supplier
- The disruption of the supply of gas and electricity to your home or business such as a power cut or connection problem
- Issues regarding an energy company’s handling of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) including the tariff rates and payments
- Issues regarding the provision of services under the Green Deal
For more see: Who Supplies My Gas and Electricity?
Complaints that the Energy Ombudsman cannot handle are:
- The energy company’s commercial decisions around pricing, providing a product or service, or the terms that they are provided under
- Complaints that they believe are unjustified
- Any issues where the courts are involved
- Any energy supply issues regarding liquid propane gas (LPG)
- Historical issues that do not fit the time limits (see below)
- Complaints regarding the criteria and eligibility of the Feed-in Tariff
The Energy Ombudsman can review complaints outside of their remit if the complaint is regarding an element of the energy market that is regulated and the energy company requests their involvement. This may include complaints from business that do not fit the micro business criteria.
When Can You Contact the Energy Ombudsman?
Before you contact the Energy Ombudsman you must have first tried to resolve the issue with the energy company concerned and have followed their complaints procedure. Each energy company should publish their complaints procedure on their website but if you are unable to find it you should request a copy when you make your complaint.
You should read the complaints procedure to ensure that both parties are following the procedure correctly so that your complaint can be handled in the most effective way.
The Energy Ombudsman has detailed advice on how to make and manage your complaint so that you do it in the most effective manner that should result in a quicker complaint resolution.
You can access the Energy Ombudsman service under the following circumstances:
- If your complaint has not been successfully resolved within eight weeks of them receiving the complaint (note if your energy company is SSE this period is six weeks)
- If you receive communication that they are no longer handling your complaint
- If the energy company informs you it has reached its final position and you are unsatisfied with the outcome
- If you have followed the energy company’s complaints procedure but are failing to get a response or the complaint is not progressing
- If you are unable to reach the energy company to register your complaint
In some of the circumstances above you will be issued with a deadlock letter that you will need to share with the Energy Ombudsman. A deadlock letter is a letter issued by the energy company stating their final position. You can request a deadlock letter if you have not received one.
You will also need to contact the Energy Ombudsman within 12 months of receiving a deadlock letter. If you have not received a deadlock letter from your energy company then it might still be possible to have your complaint investigate even if it is over 12 months.
What are the Outcomes of The Energy Ombudsman Decision?
The Energy Ombudsman will seek the best resolution and will try to do this as quickly as possible. More complex complaints or where mutually agreeable decisions are harder to reach it may take longer and require a report outlining the investigation and the decision.
The decision reached by the Energy Ombudsman will need to be agreed by the customer and once agreed it will become the final decision. As a result of this final decision, the energy company will be given 28 days to remedy the issue.
If the customer rejects the decision from the investigation then the decision outcomes offered will be withdrawn and the customer can take the complaint further if they wish elsewhere such as with the courts.
The Energy Ombudsman’s role is not to enforce the terms of the energy company licence or to punish them but to resolve the complaint for the customer. Their findings will be shared with Ofgem who will report on the complaints and will investigate any breaches of the energy company licence.
As a result of the Energy Ombudsman’s investigation findings and decision, they can get the energy company to:
- Correct the problem
- Respond to your complaint and explain the issue
- Enforce financial compensation when deemed appropriate up to the value of £10,000, but compensation tend to be much lower around £50
The Energy Ombudsman may also provide some recommendations to the energy company as a result of their investigation findings that may prevent the company from making similar mistakes again.
Ofgem’s Role with the Energy Ombudsman
Ofgem does not have a direct role in handling complaints between customers and energy companies, this is left to the Energy Ombudsman. Ofgem collects complaint information from the Energy Ombudsman and the Citizens Advice services to ensure energy companies are complying with their licence obligations as well as publishing annual complaint statistics.
If a complaint investigation findings show that there has been a breach of the energy company licence then Ofgem will investigate the breach further and take action where appropriate.
Other Places to Gain Help and Advice
The Citizens Advice consumer service can provide you with information about your rights and how best to make your complaint. You can contact them at any point during your complaint on 0345 404 0506 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.
Resolver.co.uk is an online service or app that is available free of charge to give customers advice about complaints and to guide you through the complaint process. It offers assistance in writing letters and emails, and can record telephone conversations for you. Resolver also has a complaint log that trackers the complaint and will allow you send the case file electronically to the Energy Ombudsman if it is not resolved satisfactorily.
Energy Ombudsman Contact Details
Energy Ombudsman Address
Ombudsman Services: Energy
PO Box 966