Ideally, the first step in any complaints process is to call the supplier’s complaints or customer service line and tell them what’s going on and that you’re unhappy about it.
There are strict regulations governing how energy companies handle complaints, including how seriously they need to treat any expression of dissatisfaction with their service and the time-frames in which they must respond to you. You can find out more on these rules and how to bring a complaint that leverages their might here.
If you’re not sure and you don’t have a bill to hand, find out who your supplier is, and the correct phone number to call here.
- take a note of the time and date that you called them, as well as the name of the person with whom you spoke
- keep an accurate record of what you said, and what they said in response as well. If you then need to follow up with a letter like this one, you’ll have a robust position and time-frame for when your complaint was first brought to their attention
- ask them to confirm which email address you should use to communicate further with them in writing
- get a complaint reference number – this emphasises that you are treating this as a complaint and it will marry up their record of your call with your subsequent correspondence following on from it, and
- follow up the call with an email recording all of the above (including the complaint reference number) and file that email in a readily accessible place. Following up in this way ensures that there is no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the facts of your complaint – including the fact that it is a complaint in the first place and it will typically result in more timely and efficient processing of your complaint. You can adapt the wording of this template to form the content of that email.
If it becomes necessary to do so (because your complaint does not get swiftly resolved), you can then send this template letter. When you send it, it’s advisable to do so by special/recorded delivery, so that you have proof that it was received.
Involving the energy ombudsman
In most cases, that will be all that’s needed to resolve your complaint. However, if you can’t get a satisfactory response, you may want to take advice about next steps. Our speak to an adviser service is well placed to assist you in determining whether, in spite of the stance taken by your supplier, your rights are, in fact, being breached; or you could speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau, who may be able to identify this for you too.
When can you get the ombudsman involved?
Ultimately, if your rights have been breached and after taking the above two steps, you can’t get help resolving your complaint elsewhere, you can and should bring your complaint to the attention of the energy ombudsman – who will expect you to have tried to resolve your complaint by the above means first, and can then help you.
If your supply contract is with the following energy companies, you can ask the energy ombudsman to help you resolve your complaint if it has not been resolved after 8 weeks of you trying the above complaint resolution methods:
- EDF Energy
- British Gas
- E.ON UK and
For other suppliers, it’s a 12-week period since you first tried to resolve your complaint, before you can ask the energy ombudsman to get involved.
Deadlock position speeds up access to the ombudsman
However, if at any point your energy company has described your case as 'deadlocked' (get them to do this in writing to you) then you can take your complaint directly to the Energy Ombudsman and you do not have to wait until your 8 or 12 week period has expired.
What can the ombudsman do?
While there is no guarantee that the ombudsman will find in your favour, if it proposes a solution, you’ll have 28 days to decide whether that’s acceptable to you. If you say yes, your supplier must comply with the solution. If you say no, then you’ll need to consider other dispute resolution methods – but in almost all cases, this will probably mean that your prospects of success will be quite slim and you’re looking at costly and time-consuming court action.
Of course, if we can’t get a swift and fair resolution, many of us will vote earlier in a complaints process ‘with our feet’. There are plenty of switching sites where you can see if you can get a better deal from another supplier, and you can compare their ratings, including their track record for successful complaints handling.