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Complaining to your energy provider

If you're having issues with your energy supplier-including faults with your meter or problems with irregular, unusual, or disputed bills or complaints about the way they've sold you their services or handled your customer service contacts-your first port of call should always be your energy supplier. Try this method before you pursue a formal complaint with external bodies. Your supplier will generally be able to deal with the issue informally, sparing you hassle. If your provider fails to respond to your satisfaction, resolve the issue, or respond at all within a certain time period-either eight or 12 weeks, depending on the size of the firm-you have recourse to external services and advice, including the Energy Ombudsman and Citizens Advice.

Follow the steps below to resolve issues with your energy firm:

Note: Usually, if you're having issue with your supply, including power cuts, you should contact your local distribution network rather than your energy supplier.

Contacting your supplier

It's best to contact your supplier by phone first, although if the issue is particularly complicated, you may want to follow up the phone contact with a letter or email. You may want to use written correspondence to supply evidence to support your case, including scans or photocopies of revenant bills and photos of meter readings. These will be useful as supporting evidence if you need to file a formal complaint.

When you contact your supplier, you should write down the date and time of the call, the name of the person you spoke to, and details of what was discussed, as you might need to refer back to them, especially if you need to escalate the issue to a formal complaint.

In any written communication, make sure you quote your account number and, if following up correspondence, any case reference or complaint number.

Making a complaint

Your supplier will have a complaints procedure that will be detailed on their website. They'll generally give you the option of contacting them via phone, online form, email, or post.

Consumer advocate Citizens Advice have template complaints letters you can send to your supplier, for problems ranging from missing bills to your energy supply being transferred to another firm without your consent.

Keep records of any contact you have with your supplier, including photocopies of any letters and evidence you send.

After being contacted, your supplier should attempt to correct the issue. They may ask for more information or evidence, including copies of bills, and may ask to visit your home to take a meter reading.

If you're not satisfied with your supplier's response, if they fail to resolve your issue or to respond to you promptly, you should then escalate the complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.

Additionally, If your supplier can't resolve the complaint to your satisfaction within eight weeks, they may issue you with a deadlock letter, specifying that you haven't been able to reach an agreement, and instructing you to move the case onto the Energy Ombudsman.

Complaining to the Energy Ombudsman

The Energy Ombudsman is an Ofgem-approved independent, impartial, and free arbitrator of disputes between domestic and micro business consumers and energy suppliers. The Ombudsman helps more than 90,000 energy customers a year resolve complaints. They typically handle issues related to:

  • gas and electricity bills
  • installation delays
  • customer service
  • problems that arise as a result of switching supplier
  • the sales practices of energy companies and the mis-selling of energy products
  • the supply of energy to a home
  • problems with micro generation and Feed-in-Tariffs

The Energy Ombudsman can only deal with complaints about firms which have signed up to their scheme. Luckily, more than 450 have; you can consult the Ombudsman's website to see if your supplier is one of them.

The Energy Ombudsman can't deal with issues related to:

  • liquid petroleum gas (LPG)
  • the prices an energy company sets, including the pricing of gas and electricity tariffs
  • cases it judges to be malicious or unjustified or without value or possibility of succeeding
  • Ofgem specifies that you should escalate your complaint to the Ombudsman if:
  • you're not happy with your supplier's response
  • your supplier is one of the Big Six (British Gas, EDF, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power or SSE) and it's been eight weeks since you first made your complaint to your supplier and the issue hasn't been resolved
  • you're with a smaller supplier and your complaint hasn't been resolved in 12 weeks
  • you've received a deadlock letter within the last 12 months. If you haven't received a deadlock letter, they may be able to resolve complaints raised more than 12 months ago.

The Energy Ombudsman issues decisions that are binding for the supplier but not you as the consumer. They can get suppliers to resolve your issue in the following ways:

  • to take practical action to correct the issue
  • to apologise
  • to respond to you and explain the issue
  • to make a financial reward or reimburse you
  • to accept recommendations about how to prevent the issue from arising again

If the Energy Ombudsman decides the firm must take action to redress a problem, the firm has 28 days to comply. They'll also write to you asking if you accept the decision. If you reject the decision or fail to respond to the letter, you'll be unable to make the same complaint to the Ombudsman but are free to file complaints in other ways, including through legal means.

Getting external help with complaints

At any point in the complaints process if you think you need external assistance and advice, you can contact Citizens Advice, a charity that advocates on behalf of and advises British consumers.

You should first consult Citizen Advice's website, which can inform you of your rights as an energy customer and give you practical advice about how to handle your complaint. You can also contact the service by phone and post.

Citizens Advice may be able to handle your complaint for you if you're a member of a vulnerable customer group-if you're elderly, unemployed, on a low income, or have a limiting or longstanding illness.

Fed up with complaining?

If you're unhappy with your supplier for any reason - whether it's poor customer service or high prices - use our energy price comparison service to see how much better off you could be with another provider.