The Energy Ombudsman is an impartial arbitrator of disputes between energy suppliers and their customers. It is independent but has been approved by energy market regulator Ofgem to offer arbitration services free of charge to domestic and micro business energy consumers.
The Energy Ombudsman helps 90,000 customers each year resolve complaints with energy suppliers, typically related to gas and electricity bills, installation delays, switching, and other customer service problems.
But if you have a problem with your energy supplier, the Energy Ombudsman should not be your first port of call. You can only escalate complaints to them once you have lodged them with your supplier itself and the supplier hasn’t responded within a reasonable timeframe or to your satisfaction.
If you’re facing issues with your energy supplier – whether it be irregular or disputed bills, poor customer service, delays in installation or switching – you should communicate directly with the firm first. You’re advised to simply contact them before escalating the problem to an internal complaint – many issues can be resolved quickly and without hassle.
It is best to contact your supplier first by telephone, although if the issue is particularly complicated you may wish to reach out to them in writing. You may want to send them supporting evidence, including photocopies of bills or photographs of meter readings.
In all communications you should quote your account number and, if following up, any claims or complaints number you’ve been issued. You should also keep records of when you communicate with your supplier and with whom you spoke. These will be helpful if you need to escalate the problem to an official complaint.
If the issue isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, you should then file a formal internal complaint with the supplier. All suppliers will have their complaints procedures outlined on their websites. You typically have the option of contacting them by phone, online form, letter, or email.
Consumer watchdog and advocate Citizens Advice has template letters you can use when complaining to your supplier, for issues ranging from tariffs being mis-sold to your energy company switching your supply without your consent.
If after you’ve filed an internal complaint, you’re not satisfied with your energy supplier’s response, if they haven’t responded promptly or if they fail to resolve the issue, you may then escalate the complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
Under Ofgem rules, Big Six suppliers (British Gas, EDF, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power or SSE) have eight weeks to resolve your issue before you can escalate the complaint to the Ombudsman. Small suppliers have 12 weeks.
After you file a complaint, suppliers may issue you with a deadlock letter, indicating that the two parties haven’t been able to reach an agreement, and instructing you to contact the Energy Ombudsman. You have 12 months from receiving the deadlock letter to involve the Ombudsman. If you haven’t received a deadlock letter, the Ombudsman may be able to address issues older than 12 months.
To lodge a complaint with the Energy Ombudsman, visit their website. You’ll be asked to select the company about which you’re complaining, confirm that you’ve already made a complaint to the firm itself, and then provide details about your complaint, including supporting evidence.
The Energy Ombudsman typically handles complaints related to:
The Energy Ombudsman doesn’t handle complaints related to
It also won’t take on cases it judges to be malicious or justified or without value or the possibly of succeeding. It also can’t handle cases which are currently or have already been reviewed by other bodies, including courts.
The Energy Ombudsman handles complaints from domestic and micro business energy consumers.
Micro businesses are those which meet the following criteria:
The Energy Ombudsman can only handle complaints about energy suppliers that have signed up to their voluntary scheme. But more than 450 domestic and business suppliers have and it’s likely yours is one. You can consult the Ombudsman’s website for a list of all participating companies.
When you next compare energy deals, it’s a good idea to see if prospective suppliers are signed up with the Ombudsman. Participation in their voluntary arbitration scheme is a sign of a commitment to treating consumers fairly.
The Energy Ombudsman will review your case and make a decision. It will be binding for the supplier but not for you as the consumer.
The Ombudsman can make suppliers address your issue in the following ways:
The firm has 28 days to comply with the Ombudsman’s decision and redress the problem in the ways they specified. They will also write you a letter asking if you accept the decision. If you reject the decision or fail to respond, you’ll be unable to make the same complaint to the Ombudsman again.
If you’re dissatisfied with the Energy Ombudsman’s decision, you can complain in other ways, including through the courts.