AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Complaints about gas and electricity

Contents

Making a complaint to your energy supplier

You may have a problem with your energy supply or supplier, for example:

  • Your bill is incorrect
  • You have a complaint in relation to service
  • Your supply has been disconnected
  • Your supply has been interrupted
  • Your meter reading is incorrect
  • Your meter is faulty
  • Your have energy supply transfer problems
  • You have a complaint in relation to sales
  • You have a complaint in relation to customer service
If you have a problem with your energy supply or service, it is important that you contact your supplier, in the first instance, to let them know what has happened. You need to contact your supplier within 12 months of learning of the problem. You will find the contact details of your energy supplier on your bill or on their website. Usually, an energy supplier will be able to fix the problem at this stage, but if it is unable to do so, you may need to escalate your complaint within the company.

Major energy supply companies must address your complaint within eight weeks (small scale suppliers have 12 weeks to respond) or risk being fined by the OFGEM or NIAUR in Northern Ireland, the regulatory authorities for the electricity and gas markets.

To help you escalate your complaint, your supplier will have a formal complaints procedure. A copy of this procedure will be available to you upon request and will usually be available on your supplier's website.

Citizens Advice Bureau and Consumer Council for Northern Ireland

If you are a vulnerable consumer, have been disconnected from your energy supply or have been threatened with disconnection by your supplier (including prepayment off-supply), contact the Citizens Advice Bureau. It will work directly with your energy supplier on your behalf to resolve your complaint. In Northern Ireland you should contact the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland who will assist you with your complaint. If they are unable to reach a suitable settlement then they will refer your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman on your behalf (see below).

Who is a vulnerable consumer?

A consumer may be potentially vulnerable due to:

  • The urgency of their situation, e.g. debt collection action or unmanageable payment arrangement
  • Their personal circumstances, whereby the consumer is unable to deal with the matter themselves
  • The complexity of the problem, which makes it difficult for the consumer to deal directly with their supplier and requires expert help to resolve their problem
For more information about the Citizens Advice Bureau, see its website.

For more information about the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland, see its website.

Tips for specific complaints

Complaint about a high gas bill

If you believe that a domestic gas meter is not registering properly, you should contact your gas supplier. You may be asked to test the meter further by recording readings over a week. If there still seems to be a problem, then National Grid will be contacted by your supplier and they will come out to remove your meter for testing, as on-site testing of gas meters is impractical. If necessary, the meter will be replaced. To be classified as accurate, the meter has to be accurate to within 2% of the exact amount of gas being used. In England and Wales, if the supplier does not offer an explanation of the probable cause of the problem within five working days or schedule a visit to investigate (where necessary) within seven working days, they must pay you £20. In Northern Ireland, you should check with your gas supplier to see what their policy is or contact the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.

Complaint about a high electricity bill

If the electricity meter is not recording accurately then you can ask the electricity company concerned to check the meter. You may be asked to test the meter further by recording readings over a week. Alternatively, your electricity supplier may ask their metering company to visit you and carry out a 'standard load test' on your meter, or they may install a 'check meter' next to your current meter for a period of not less than 2 weeks. If a fault is found with the meter, you will not normally have to pay for these tests and you will be sent a new bill to cover your actual electricity consumption. An electricity meter is deemed accurate if it reads no more than 2.5% higher or 3.5% lower than the exact amount of electricity used. In England and Wales, if the supplier does not offer an explanation of the probable cause of the problem within five working days or schedule a visit to investigate (where necessary) within seven working days, they must pay you £20. In Northern Ireland, you should check with your electricity supplier to see what their policy is or contact the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.

Complaint about substandard service

Under Section 13 of The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, the supplier is obliged to carry out their service with reasonable care and skill. If they do not, then they are in breach of their duty under the Act. In addition, there are Guaranteed Standards for the energy sector which provide for a minimum level of service which must be met for each individual consumer and sets a standard level of compensation where a company fails to meet the standard set out. In Northern Ireland, only the electricity market has a Guaranteed Standards Scheme, though there are plans to bring one in for the gas and water markets. If you have any complaints about substandard service, you should contact the supplier or you can contact NIAUR or the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland for advice and assistance.

Complaint about an interrupted service

If you have experienced any delay, inconvenience or interruption in the supply of your gas or electricity, you may be entitled to compensation under the Guaranteed Standards. You can make a complaint about an interrupted service:

  • For gas, complain to the gas transporter for failure to meet standards (Please note that, in Northern Ireland, there is no Guaranteed Standards Scheme for the gas market, but you should still contact the transporter initially in the event of a complaint).
  • For electricity, complain to the electricity distributor for failure to meet standards.
Escalating your complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint, or it remains unresolved, then you may refer it to the Energy Ombudsman. The Energy Ombudsman will settle disputes between energy companies and consumers and has the power to award consumers up to £5,000 in compensation. The scheme extends to micro businesses as well as domestic consumers. The Ombudsman will also be able to investigate complaints customers make about energy network companies which transport gas and power to their homes.

For more information, see our section 'The Energy Ombudsman'.

In Northern Ireland, the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland is the body that deals with complaints, there is no Ombudsman.

Further information

National Grid

The actual piping of gas is under the control of a company called National Grid. Any gas leaks should be reported to them on the free phone number 0800 111 999. They are available at any time, should you have any emergency with your gas supply.

OFGEM

OFGEM, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, is the regulator for gas and electricity industries in Great Britain. It was formed in 1999 by the merger of OFGAS (the gas regulator) and OFFER (the electricity regulator) and is responsible for the protection of consumers by promoting effective competition and regulating monopolies. It sets standards, price controls and creates conditions, which allow companies to compete fairly so that consumers can make an informed choice.

Contact OFGEM via the Citizens Advice Bureau

NIAUR

NIAUR, the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation, is the regulator for gas, electricity and water and sewerage in Northern Ireland and is responsible for promoting the short and long-term interests of the consumer in Northern Ireland.

Contact NIAUR via the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland on 0800 121 6022 or online.