Utility companies have made a big effort to offer better prices, clearer packages and better customer services in recent years. But sadly, problems do still occur, and you can find yourself needing to make a complaint or even take a complaint further when you aren’t happy with their handling of it. So, what is the process and who can help you with different issues?
The basic complaints process
If you are unhappy about something, then you should always start by complaining to the company who supplies you with your gas or electricity. So if this is EDF, for example, you could call the EDF customer services telephone number and speak to the customer services team. You can get all the contact number on this website https://www.phonethem.co.uk/eon-phone-number. Or you could call the dedicated EDF phone number, 0843 133 7017, that handle complaints. You may even be given a specific number to call if there is a specific department for your area of the country.
Companies also have other ways to get in touch including live chat, through social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter or via email. You can also even write to them if you prefer to put things down on paper, although this might take longer to get a response than other contact options.
Make sure you have your account number and other details to hand to help them easily find your account. If you are following up on previous correspondence or communications have these details with you to refer to. Always keep a scan of any paperwork you send to companies, so you can track what was said and what was sent.
Seek help from Citizens Advice
The Citizens Advice Consumer Service is available to help people who are having trouble with companies and don’t know what to do. The service is free as Citizens Advice is a charity and they can advise you on how to proceed if you have made a claim and aren’t happy with the outcome.
Start with the Adviceguide, an online portal that contains lots of information about your rights and the common steps to take with a complaint. There is a dedicated section on energy supplier complaints that can often give you the information you need to return to your energy company and apply a little knowledge-based pressure to sort the problem.
Citizens Advice can’t handle the complaint for you as they are only a charity. But they are able to direct you where to go next if you are unhappy with how your utility company has responded to your complaint.
If the energy company don’t help you or you are dissatisfied with their decision about a complaint, you can escalate the complaint to the Energy Ombudsman. They have the ability to help with a range of situations and outcomes including practical action, apologies from the company or even a financial award to resolve the problem, depending on the nature of the complaint.
All energy companies are involved with the ombudsman but claims against the ‘Big Six’ – British Gas, EDF, E. ON, SSE, npower and Scottish Power – are handled quicker than for smaller, independent utility companies. The ombudsman will handle both gas and electricity issues.
You can refer the complaint if:
- You are with one of the Big Six and the complaint hasn’t been resolved within 8 weeks
- You are with a smaller supplier and the complaint hasn’t been resolved within 12 weeks
- The supplier says you are ‘deadlocked’ and cannot agree on an outcome for the complaint
There is a range of things that the ombudsman can handle and some that they can’t. they can help with problems around bills, sales activity, switching supplier, supply to a home or small business (including power cuts) and also issues around microgeneration and Feed-in tariffs. They don’t assist with complaints about the amount companies charge for their services, anything concerning LPG or anything that is deemed malicious, unjustified or best dealt with by the courts.
Who is Ofgem?
We often hear mention of Ofgem, usually to do with reports about pricing and similar matters. But who are they and do they play a part in complaints?
Ofgem is a government-backed body like Ofcom or the FCA who have specific powers and duties. They were set up back in the mid-1990s when the market for gas and electricity was deregulated and homes could switch to a supplier of their choice. They were initially responsible for setting a maximum price for supplies, but this was stopped in the early 2000s.
Since then, Ofgem is about protecting consumers rights and making sure people are getting a fair deal. They have the power to investigate supplier behaviour and impose fines on them if they have breached license conditions. Their job is to protect the UK consumer of gas and electricity.
They also have a code of conduct that is called the Confidence Code, and this is voluntarily agreement that is used for energy comparison sites such as uSwitch. This ensures that they are impartial and offer a fair and easy process for customers shopping around.
If you have a problem with your utility company, most of the time the company themselves will deal with it. If you are unhappy with their approach you can get advice from Citizens Advice and escalate it to the Ombudsman if you are still unsatisfied. Ofgem is a separate organisation who are about overall standards rather than playing a part in the complaints process for energy companies.
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