The Energy Ombudsman received 26% more complaints about energy suppliers last year, indicating increasing consumer dissatisfaction with their energy suppliers.
The Energy Ombudsman is authorised by Ofgem to be the independent, impartial arbitrator of disputes between energy customers and their suppliers. Last year, it received 68,523 actionable complaints from domestic energy consumers and micro-businesses, up from 54,000 in 2018.
The increase came despite a decrease in signposting, the process by which energy suppliers make customers aware of their rights to escalate an unresolved complaint to the ombudsman. Energy companies adequately signposted consumers to the ombudsman in 48% of the complaints resolved by the ombudsman in 2019, down from 51% in 2018. The Energy Ombudsman noted that small suppliers in particular often fail to signpost consumers to the ombudsman in a timely manner.
The ombudsman resolved 57,000 complaints last year, up 25% from the year before. Of those, 57% were upheld in the consumer’s favour, down from 64% in 2018.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of complaints were resolved using a new early settlement process, through which the customer and supplier reach an agreement without the need for an investigation by the ombudsman.
Complaints about billing were the most numerous, and the Ombudsman found inconsistency in the way suppliers approach back billing which it believes is generating the high volume of complaints. Payments and debts and customer service were also common sources of complaints.
Matthew Vickers, chief executive of the non-profit Ombudsman Service, which runs the Energy Ombudsman scheme, said: “More people are coming to us for help with an energy problem, and we’re resolving more complaints.
“This shows that there is greater awareness of our service amongst consumers—and greater demand for what we do.
“This is despite the fact that some, mainly smaller energy suppliers, don’t always tell their customers about us in the way that they should. We continue to work with individual suppliers to address these issues.”
Domestic customers and micro-businesses should file all complaints with their supplier first. However, if the supplier doesn’t respond to their satisfaction within eight weeks, they can escalate it to the ombudsman.
If the supplier sends a deadlock letter, confirming the complaint can’t be resolved, the consumer may escalate the matter to the ombudsman more quickly.
The Energy Ombudsman service is free for domestic energy consumers and micro-businesses.
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