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Law guide

Complaining to the Energy Ombudsman

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The Energy Ombudsman is the UK energy sector's independent dispute resolution service. It resolves outstanding complaints about energy suppliers that provide gas and/or electricity to your home.

All companies involved in the supply of gas or electricity to domestic consumers must be members of the ombudsman. It's the only scheme specifically servicing the energy sector in the UK.

When to refer a complaint

Before the ombudsman will consider your complaint, you must contact your energy supplier and make every effort to complete its complaints procedure. You need to refer your complaint to your energy supplier within 12 months of becoming aware of the problem.

After this, the ombudsman will generally only consider your complaint if one or more of the following applies:

  • You're having difficulty registering a complaint with the energy company.
  • It has been 8 weeks since you first made the complaint to your energy supplier and you're still not happy with how your complaint has been dealt with. In this case, you then have 9 months to refer your complaint to the ombudsman. (This 8-week limit applies to the main energy suppliers E.ON, EDF Energy, British Gas, npower, Scottish Power and Scottish & Southern.)
  • You've received a 'deadlock' letter from your energy supplier (which states that you're unable to reach an agreement). You then have 6 months to refer your complaint to the ombudsman.

How to refer a complaint

You can contact the ombudsman by phone, where the ombudsman will take your details and send you a filled-in complaint form. Or you can complete its online enquiry form. Where possible, you should scan and email any documents you're relying on. If you send the ombudsman original documents, you might not get them back.

When the ombudsman receives your complaint form, it'll make sure that it's completed correctly and that the nature of your complaint is one of the issues it deals with. Once the ombudsman confirms this, it'll investigate your complaint.

How does the ombudsman handle complaints?

The ombudsman starts by contacting your energy supplier for information about what has happened so far. Once it has all the facts, it'll first try to resolve the complaint informally.

If this isn't possible, the complaint will be referred to an ombudsman investigation officer. The investigation officer will write a provisional conclusion and send it to both you and the energy supplier. If you both accept the provisional conclusion, it'll become the final decision, and the energy supplier must carry out any required solution.

You should tell the ombudsman if you or the energy supplier feel that the ombudsman has made a significant error, or if new important evidence has come out that could have had a real effect on the ombudsman's decision. Any comments or evidence received at this stage will be passed on to the ombudsman to consider when making the final decision.

When the ombudsman has finished this process, it'll send you and the energy supplier a copy of the final decision. The final decision can't be changed and there is no appeal procedure.

Resolution

You have 2 months to decide whether or not you accept the decision. If you don't accept it, you lose the right to the solution offered in the final decision. If you accept it, the ombudsman can ask the energy supplier to provide any or all of the following in order to resolve the complaint:

  • A financial award
  • An apology or explanation
  • A service or some practical action that will benefit the consumer
When a financial award is granted to you, it's not meant to punish your energy suppliers, but rather is the amount deemed appropriate to settle your complaint, up to a maximum limit of £5,000 (including VAT).

The ombudsman can also recommend that your energy supplier makes changes to its policies or procedures, particularly if certain complaints continue to arise or trends emerge.