Explaining our complaints data
Quarterly energy data publication
We publish our data to help consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions about their energy supplier. Every quarter we produce data sheets which show the number of complaints we receive and the complaints we handle for the energy sector as a whole and for the 10 largest energy suppliers (based on market share figures). Occasionally we extend our publication to include smaller suppliers that have seen an increase in complaints during the reporting period.
Our data publication provides a snapshot of the complaints we receive and is based on the number of complaints a supplier receives per 100,000 customer accounts. We publish the following data:
- Total number of complaints we have accepted
- A breakdown of accepted complaints by the top three complaint types
- Total number of complaints we have resolved
- A breakdown of resolved complaints by the top three complaint types; with a further breakdown on the most common complaint
- The awards we have made
We also provide data to Ofgem and Citizens Advice, which they include in a ‘basket’ of data that is published quarterly.
Understanding supplier performance
Before using the energy ombudsman a customer must first raise a complaint with the energy company and give it an opportunity to resolve the issue. If the complaint isn’t resolved in eight weeks or the supplier issues a deadlock letter we may then be able to accept the complaint for investigation if it falls within our jurisdiction, which is explained in our terms of reference. This means that we may only see a small percentage of complaints made about a supplier and our data can only provide a snapshot guide to complaint numbers. For a comprehensive understanding of supplier performance, we encourage individuals to also review data published by Ofgem and Citizens Advice:
- Ofgem publishes information on its website about the complaints that the 14 largest domestic energy suppliers record every quarter. The data includes the number of complaints (total numbers, and by every 100,000 customers for each supplier), as well as information about how quickly these complaints are dealt with.
- Citizens Advice publishes a quarterly league table on how the 21 largest energy firms in Great Britain handle complaints. It covers all domestic energy suppliers with more than 50,000 customers. The data is based on the number of consumers that have contacted an independent organisation for advice or support with an energy problem. Complaints made to the Citizens Advice consumer service, the Extra Help Unit and Ombudsman Services: Energy are weighted differently to reflect the severity of the complaint. Weightings have been allocated to reflect the seriousness of the complaint and the time and effort spent by the consumer to get their problem resolved. The weightings in the model place greater emphasis on situations where the consumer has had to repeatedly contact their supplier, or another agency, because the company has failed to deal with their problem. The measures used in the model are outlined in the methodology.
We are committed to making the information that we publish accessible and easy to understand by everyone. Our glossary provides a summary of the seven most common complaint types that we use when consumers contact us about their energy billing problems. We have also provided further information to explain the awards that we make.
Context of data publication
Where our published data contains company names, it does not represent a league table and does not imply that one company is better or worse than another. These figures simply reflect the contacts and complaints received by Ombudsman Services. Many factors can influence the number of calls, enquiries or complaints received by Ombudsman Services. These factors could include, for example:
- The rules governing the sector redress scheme such as: whether, because of specific circumstances, the Ombudsman has decided to use discretion to take on a case which might not otherwise be covered by the scheme (outside of our terms of reference).
- The company details such as: the size of a company; how well a company signposts its complaints scheme; how much a company invites feedback; or a company’s current advertising campaign.
- External influences outside of our direct control such as: regulatory activities, eg enforcement action or prosecutions; public policy debates; what is in the news at the moment; what is getting consumer interest; the weather; or the economy.
How we collect data
We capture most of the data at first point of contact in our case management system by our employees.
We produce monthly and quarterly reports for participating companies and industry regulators. In 2016 we began using dynamic data that is continually refreshed, rather than static data that captures information at a moment in time and does not change. This ensures we are able to provide the most up to date information about the status of our cases. We also now use dynamic data for our quarterly energy data (Q4 2015 onwards).
Verification of data
We make every attempt to ensure that this data is correct at the time of publishing. From time to time we may need to amend the data retrospectively, eg if we find out more information about a case which might cause us to re-categorise it. Participating companies have the opportunity to see data about their cases via a portal to our case handling system. Figures for cases resolved are complaints that have been investigated and the participating company has been charged a case fee for.