A new report issued by the Labour party has found that half a million homes across the country may be missing out on payments of £100, as they are not going to the energy ombudsman to have their supplier related complaints resolved.
Anyone who has a dispute with an energy supplier and is unable to resolve it with the supplier after a period of eight weeks, or following the receipt of a letter of deadlock, can contact the energy ombudsman. However, only 5% of customers in this situation do so.
Of these 5%, the ombudsman ordered energy suppliers to pay compensation in 76% of all cases in 2013 – 14. The average compensation was £100.
According to the Ombudsman Service, this year it has accepted more than 37,000 complaints, compared to 18,000 for the whole of 2013. In contrast, complaints to the big six energy suppliers stand at five million in 2013 and three million in the first half of this year.
According to Ofgem’s studies, one third of customers who fail to contact the ombudsman following an unresolved complaint, are unaware that they have the option to.
Flint: ‘Vital consumers know about their rights and feel confident to use them’
Speaking on the report, Caroline Flint, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “Hundreds of thousands of consumers could be missing out on compensation or waiting months for their complaint to be resolved.
“If energy companies don’t deal with complaints within eight weeks, consumers have a right to refer their case to the Energy Ombudsman.
“It’s vital consumers know about their rights and feel confident to use them. If they do, given three quarters of cases result in compensation, there’s a very good chance they will be compensated for the poor customer service they’ve experienced.”
Investigations into big six ongoing
Ofgem responded to the findings by saying that suppliers need to “get their act together”. The energy regulator added that it was currently investigating npower over its complaint handling procedures.
Angela Knight, head of Energy UK, the trade association for the energy industry, told the Telegraph that any suggestion that energy companies were deliberately making it difficult for consumers to seek redress were “outrageous”. She added that anyone who issues a complaint which goes unresolved will receive a letter informing them how to take the issue to the ombudsman.