Energy Ombudsman resolves more complaints as demand increases

The number of complaints resolved by the Energy Ombudsman increased by 25% last year to nearly 57,000, as consumer demand for the service grew. These figures and more are contained in the 2019 annual energy sector report published by Ombudsman Services.

Ombudsman Services | Aug 03, 2020

The number of complaints resolved by the Energy Ombudsman increased by 25% last year to nearly 57,000, as consumer demand for the service grew.

Billing was the number-one type of complaint handled by the ombudsman, followed by payments/debt in second place and customer service in third.

There was a 26% year-on-year increase in the number of consumers and microbusinesses contacting the ombudsman with an actionable energy complaint*, from just over 54,000 in 2018 to 68,523.

That’s despite a decrease in rates of ‘signposting’ – the process by which energy companies make their customers aware of their right to take an unresolved complaint to the ombudsman. There was evidence of timely signposting by the energy company in 48% of complaints resolved by the ombudsman, down from 51% in 2018.

Of the 56,978 complaints resolved by the Energy Ombudsman last year, 32,478 (57%) were upheld in the consumer’s favour.

Nearly a quarter of complaints (23%) were resolved using a new early settlement process, which enables a consumer and company to reach an agreement without the need for an ombudsman investigation.

energy ombudsman annual report 2019

The figures are contained in the 2019 annual energy sector report published by Ombudsman Services, the not-for-profit organisation that runs the Energy Ombudsman scheme. The report covers the calendar year, from 1 January to 31 December 2019.

Matthew Vickers, chief executive at Ombudsman Services, 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.

“Last year was a challenging one for the energy sector, not least due to the string of supplier failures that we saw.

“We’re pleased to have played a key role in the consumer protection landscape in energy by giving people somewhere to turn when things go wrong.”

Under current rules, consumers and microbusinesses must give their energy supplier eight weeks to try to resolve a complaint before they can escalate it to the ombudsman.

The only exception is when the supplier sends what’s known as a deadlock letter, confirming that the complaint can’t be resolved and advising the customer to take the matter to the ombudsman.

Complaining to the Energy Ombudsman is free for consumers and microbusinesses. The scheme is funded by energy companies.

Access the 2019 Ombudsman Services energy sector report