How to make a complaint about your energy supplier

3 simple steps to follow if you need to make a complaint

No customer wants to make a complaint, but it's important that your energy supplier knows if you feel you have been mistreated so that they can take steps to improve their processes and customer care in the future.

If something goes wrong with your power, heating or lighting, it can cause significant problems for you and your family. Your home should be a safe space where your energy supply works as expected, and the service should be provided for a fair price that you clearly understand and have agreed to.

Following up with issues can seem like a time-consuming and terribly frustrating activity, and in these situations, poor customer service is no joke. It's true that in some instances, the process of submitting a formal complaint about your gas supplier or electricity supplier may be lengthy, difficult and downright daunting. However, as an energy customer, you have support available, should you need it.

To ensure your complaint is handled fairly and in a timely fashion with a clear resolution, there are three straight forward steps to follow.

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How to make a complaint about your energy supplier, and the steps to follow if your complaint is not resolved.

The sign of a trustworthy and reliable energy company is that you, as the customer, barely notice the energy supply you are using.

It is second nature to switch on lights, heat your home comfortably, cook dinner and use your appliances whenever you want to. That is, until something goes wrong with your gas or electricity supply, or you notice an issue with your bill, or you experience poor customer service from your energy provider.

Whilst the vast majority of gas and electricity customers won't need to submit complaints about the services they receive, some customers will. If you are in the unfortunate situation where you are faced with a problem and need to make a complaint, you should follow this process:

  1. Complain directly to your energy supplier, and if that doesn't provide an appropriate solution, then
  2. Reach out to Citizen's Advice for guidance, and if you need to raise the issue further, then
  3. Contact the Energy Ombudsman to help you resolve the disagreement.

Step one: Make a complaint with your energy supplier

Your first point of call when making a complaint is to reach out directly to your own energy supplier. Although it might seem counter-intuitive to contact the company that you are unhappy with, it's the correct action to take. You should only appeal to a higher authority if you really need to because a dispute cannot be resolved.

Most of the time, a complaint can be settled quite easily between you and the company that supplies your gas or electricity. Generally, they will want to keep you happy because you are a customer of theirs.

For issues that are relatively straightforward:

  • First, get your account reference details ready and make sure you know how to communicate the problem, possibly referring to some notes you prepared earlier.
  • Call the energy company, getting the customer helpline from their website or from your past energy bills.
  • Note down the time and date that you made your call.
  • Ask the person you are speaking with what their name is and write this down too.
  • Ask for the case reference number that the company will be using to log this complaint, so you can use it as a reference point if you need to contact the company again.
  • Add a summary of what was discussed to your notes, jotting down any details that seem important or that you may want to refer to later.
  • If you can't reach them by phone, see if you can use an online chat service. Keep records in the same way as you would if you were communicating by phone.

For issues that are slightly more complex:

  • Take the same steps as detailed above.
  • Follow up your phone call with a letter or an email so that you have a shared record of your correspondence. This ensures that nobody can claim the discussion did not take place and limits the chance of a misunderstanding between you and your energy company.
  • Include your account reference details in your letter. You'll usually find an account number on your past energy bills.
  • Include any complaint reference details or a case reference number. This helps the person receiving your letter to piece together the context and will save time and hassle.
  • Add photocopies or scans of past bills if they are relevant to your complaint. If you are sharing paperwork, you should keep the originals as these will be important for your own records and you may need to rely on them in the future.
  • For additional reassurance that the energy firm has received your letter, send it by recorded delivery. This provides proof that it was sent and successfully delivered.

Moving forward, continue to keep a record of your communications. Hopefully, your supplier will be able to find a solution that you are satisfied with. It's in their interest to do this so that you continue as their customer.

However, it's not always as simple as that and in some cases, you'll need to get external support and guidance. If you are in this position, your next step is to contact Citizens Advice.

Step two: Get in touch with Citizens Advice for support

Citizens Advice, a network of independent charities, offers confidential advice and guidance to assist you with financial and legal topics and helps consumers if they find themselves in a dispute.

With free online advice that can be accessed through their website, along with one-to-one support available in person at help hubs, Citizens Advice provides guidance on a whole host of issues. It can help you navigate topics like how to recover from debt, better manage your money or access the benefits you are entitled to.

If your energy supplier won't resolve your complaint, reach out to Citizens Advice. Whilst you usually cannot ask Citizens Advice to pursue your complaint for you, their advisers will help you understand your rights and the steps that you can take next.

However, if you are part of a vulnerable group, Citizens Advice may be able to handle the complaint on your behalf. This may apply to you if you fall into one of the following groups:

  • people who are elderly,
  • people who are unemployed,
  • people living in low-income households, and
  • people with chronic or limiting illnesses.

You can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service by phone, text or live chat.

Phone and text lines are open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm:

  • Phone: 03444 111 444
  • Text: 03444 111 444

Live chat is available Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and is available on the Citizens Advice website.

  • Website: citizensadvice.org.uk

To connect you to the correct adviser, the first person you speak to at Citizens Advice may ask you for a few details, including:

  • the kind of advice you need,
  • your postcode.

Speaking with Citizens Advice should give you the knowledge and confidence to progress with your complaint. If there does not seem like another way forward, the Citizens Advice may suggest you contact the Ombudsman.

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Step three: Make a complaint to the Energy Ombudsman

You can contact the Energy Ombudsman to help you reach a fair resolution with your gas or electricity company.

As an independent and unbiased party, the Ombudsman will review the facts and consider all perspectives.

The Energy Ombudsman can help you resolve problems with:

However, the Energy Ombudsman cannot help you resolve problems with:

  • complaints about liquid petroleum gas (LPG),
  • energy prices,
  • malicious or unjustified disputes, or
  • more complex cases that would be better settled by the courts.

If your complaint has not been dealt with correctly, the Energy Ombudsman can help you get practical action, financial compensation, clarification or an apology.

First, raise the complaint:

  • Provide copies of the evidence and records you kept from your initial complaint made with the energy company.
  • Complaints against the big six energy companies, British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE, can be raised with the Energy Ombudsman if unresolved after 8 weeks.
  • Complaints against smaller suppliers can be raised after 12 weeks.
  • Cases described as deadlocked by your energy supplier can be raised with the Ombudsman immediately.

Then you must decide whether to proceed with the solution provided.

  • The Ombudsman will aim to come to a fair solution.
  • Once they reach a decision, you will have 28 to accept it. If you accept, the energy company must comply with the demands made.
  • If you choose not to move forward with the Ombudsman's decision, you can still take your complaint to the courts if you wish to proceed with it further.

You can contact the Energy Ombudsman by post, phone, text, live chat or email:

  • Post: Ombudsman Services: Energy, PO Box 966, Warrington, WA4 9DF
  • Phone: 0330 440 1624
  • Text: 0330 440 1600
  • Live chat: ombudsman-services.org/complain-now
  • Email: enquiry@ombudsman-services.org

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