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The Energy Ombudsman

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The Energy Ombudsman

The Energy Ombudsman (EO) is UK energy sector's alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme. It is an independent organisation which resolves outstanding energy supply complaints between consumers and energy suppliers. The EO is a free service and can deal with complaints about energy suppliers that provide gas and/or electricity to your home or small business.

When can I refer my complaint?

In order to refer your complaint to the EO, your energy supplier must be a member of the EO scheme. All companies involved in the supply of gas or electricity to domestic or small business consumers must be members of an ADR scheme and the EO is the only ADR scheme specifically servicing the energy sector in the UK. Therefore it is unlikely that your supplier is not a member of this scheme. You can find out whether your supplier is a member of the scheme by contacting the EO.

Before the EO will consider your complaint, the EO requires you to have referred it to your energy supplier and to have made every effort to complete their complaints procedure. You will need to refer your complaint to your energy supplier within 12 months of becoming aware of it. Once you've complained to your supplier, the EO will generally only consider your complaint if one (or more) of the following applies to your circumstances:

1. 8 weeks have passed since you first made the complaint to your energy supplier and you're still not satisfied with how your complaint has been dealt with. In this case, you must refer your complaint to the EO within 9 months.

2. You have received a "deadlock" letter from your energy supplier (which states that you are unable to reach an agreement). You then have six months to refer your complaint to the EO.

(This 8 week limit applies to the six main energy suppliers E.ON, EDF Energy, British Gas, npower, Scottish Power and Scottish & Southern. The time limit for suppliers who became a member of the EO scheme on or after 1 October 2008 is 12 weeks for the first year after their introduction.)

3. If You are experiencing real difficulty in registering a complaint with the energy company.

If you want to go through a more thorough check or need more specific advice as to whether the EO will deal with your complaint then contact the EO directly.

How do I refer my complaint to the EO?

The EO prefers to be contacted by phone, but you can complete an online enquiry form if you prefer. They will take all of your details and send you a filled out complaint form which you must then sign and return. You should then attach your documents and return the form to the EO. The EO prefers you to scan and email your documents, if possible. If you send the EO any original documents then they will not return them to you.

When the EO has received your complaint form, they will make sure that it is filled in correctly and that the nature of your complaint is an issue within their remit. Once your form has passed this test, the EO will begin to investigate your complaint.

Visit the EO's website for more information, including contact details.

How does the EO handle complaints?

Once the EO has started to investigate your complaint, they will contact the energy supplier you are complaining about for information about what has happened so far. Once the EO has all of the facts, they will initially try to resolve the complaint informally. If the EO cannot resolve the dispute informally to the satisfaction of both sides, it will be referred to an EO investigation officer. The investigation officer will write a provisional conclusion which is then sent to both the energy company and you. If both you and the energy company accept the provisional conclusion, it will become the final decision, and the company must put in place any remedy called for.

If you or the company feel that the EO has made a significant error, or there is important new evidence which could have had a real effect on the EO's decision and was not available at an earlier stage, this should be communicated to the EO. Any comments or evidence received at this stage will be passed to an ombudsman to consider when making the final decision.

When the EO has finished this process, they will send you and the company a copy of the final decision. The final decision cannot be changed and there is no appeal procedure.

Resolution

You have two months to decide whether you accept the decision or not. If you don't accept it, you will lose the right to the solution offered in the final decision. If you accept it, the EO may ask the supply company to provide any or all of the following in order to resolve the complaint:

  • A service or some practical action that will benefit the consumer
  • An apology or explanation
  • A financial award
If a financial award is granted, the aim will not be to punish your energy suppliers, but rather, it is the amount deemed appropriate to settle your complaint up to a maximum limit of £5000 (including VAT).

The EO may also recommend that the company makes changes to its policies or procedures, particularly if certain complaints continue to arise or trends emerge. In addition, the Ombudsman will publish anonymous summaries of complaints on this website.

When the complaints process is complete, the EO will send you and your energy supplier a copy of the final decision.

Complaints in relation to the Energy Ombudsman

If you have a complaint in relation to the level of service that the EO has provided, for example, you believe that they have:

  • Treated you rudely or unfairly
  • Failed to explain things properly
  • Caused unnecessary delays
Initially, you should raise your complaint with the member of staff that you have been dealing with either by phone or in writing. If you remain dissatisfied, you should write to the EO's Chief Operating Officer setting out the details of your complaint and attaching copies of any relevant information. This procedure is not appropriate if you simply disagree with the outcome of your original complaint in relation to your energy supplier.

The procedure

The EO will respond to your complaint within 20 working days. If they cannot do so then they will contact you to inform you. When they have reached a decision, they will write to you to inform you of their conclusion(s). If they find that your complaint is justified then they will inform you and tell you how they aim to resolve the issue.

Independent Assessor

If you are still dissatisfied or you feel that the EO has taken an unreasonable amount of time to resolve your complaint then you may contact the EO's Independent Assessor currently. See the Ombudsman Service for more information in contacting the Assessor.

The Independent Assessor will consider your complaint and will then decide whether it is justified. If the Independent Assessor thinks that the EO's service is unsatisfactory, he will explain why and will recommend the steps that they should take to put things right.