Winter is coming – don’t let energy companies freeze you out of customer service
(5/11/2014) With winter setting in, household energy bills are about to creep up as we switch on those radiators and turn up the thermostat
The energy sector is one of the most complained-about industries in Britain. In 2013, 17,948 complaints were accepted by the Energy Ombudsman, but so far in 2014 it has accepted 37,061 complaints - and that’s with two months of the year still to go!
Of these cases, 95% have been upheld by the ombudsman, too, and more than three-quarters were awarded some form of financial compensation.
Ofgem, the energy industry regulator, also wants suppliers to only think of the Ombudsman as a last resort, and to work hard to improve their own complaint handling processes.
Caroline Flint, shadow Secretary of State for energy, was similarly unimpressed when she said in October that: “It's bad enough when the public have cause for complaint with their energy supplier, but for energy companies to refuse to compensate consumers or string out the complaints process for months on end is completely unacceptable.
“These figures lay bare the full scale of poor customer service and public dissatisfaction with the energy market.”
So what do you do if you want to complain about your energy provider? At www.resolver.co.uk , we will of course guide you through the whole complaints process, making it as simple and easy as possible for you to get your voice heard.
However, energy complaints are a regular occurrence, so there are relatively firmly established processes, making it fairly simple to complain about an energy supplier.
The most important thing to remember is that you must first follow the company’s own complaints procedures before you consider taking your issue to the Energy Ombudsman.
Most energy suppliers offer a fairly comprehensive breakdown of their own complaints procedures on their websites, but Resolver’s app will ensure you say the right thing at the right time - and to the right person!
Helpful hints when making a complaint about an energy supplier
• Get your complaint in writing - this is the easiest way of making sure it gets recorded properly
• Record as many details as possible - who you speak to, their job titles, the dates and times of your calls with them
• Be polite. You might well be really frustrated and irritated about the service you’ve received, but it’s important to keep calm, especially if you’re complaining to the Energy Ombudsman - effectively a third party that has had nothing to do with your complaint other than an intent to solve it.
Help for heating
To help counter the cost of heating a house for hard-up families, this winter the Government is offering a Warm Home Discount of up to £140 from your household energy bill. You can apply for one of these provided you qualify. Eligibility for the Warm Home Discount won’t affect your Cold Weather Payment or Winter Fuel Payment, either.
Who regulates the energy industry?
A body called Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) controls the behaviour of the energy industry, and is primarily concerned with protecting the interests of consumers. This includes helping to control pricing, maintaining clear billing structures and even monitoring the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Is there an Energy Ombudsman?
There is an Energy Ombudsman, who can force an energy supplier to offer apologies, explanations, resolutions and even financial compensation (in certain circumstances). It’s worth remembering, though, that you’ll first need to make a complaint to your energy supplier, and give them eight weeks to respond, before resorting to the ombudsman.
Is the energy sector bound by a guaranteed service standard?
Yes. The energy sector must guarantee to deliver a certain level of service. This is the Quality of Service Guaranteed Standard and it must be met by each energy distributor. It is monitored by Ofgem and is designed to cover key areas, including the restoration of supply in the event of a power cut, the maintenance of connections and voltage quality.
For a simple, easy way to complain about more than 1,500 companies across 65 services, go to www.resolver.co.uk or download the iPhone or Android app.
Image: Vato Bob