A decade of the Energy Ombudsman - more than 160,000 complaints received

by Communications Team | Jul 04, 2016

  • The Energy Ombudsman has received more than 160,000 complaints about providers since it launched in 2006
  • Billing is the most common issue faced by consumers, followed by transfers and sales
  • Celebrating it’s 10-year anniversary, the Energy Ombudsman looks back at its achievements

Over 160,000 complaints have been received by the Energy Ombudsman in the last decade, according to new figures(1). The statistics, released today by Ombudsman Services to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Energy Ombudsman, show that complaints that could not be resolved between consumers and their energy suppliers have increased dramatically since 2006. The service received more than 130,000 complaints in the last three and a half years alone(2) although there appears to be a sign of reduction in 2016 so far.

So far this year the biggest problem for consumers has been billing issues, which have accounted for 85% of total complaints. Problems with transfers have generated 8% of complaints and sales are responsible for a further 2%, although both have dropped in recent years.

With one in 10 complaints received over the past three years relating to transfers and switching, the recent announcement of an Energy Switching Guarantee aims to cut down switching time for consumers, but also make it clearer for consumers to know what to do when something goes wrong. 

Only 5% of consumers who could bring an energy complaint to the Energy Ombudsman actually do, according to regulator Ofgem. The Energy Ombudsman is working closely with Ofgem, the Department for Energy and Climate Change and energy suppliers to improve complaints management and sign posting across the industry to make sure it is fair to consumers, particularly the vulnerable. 

Working with key industry stakeholders, the Energy Ombudsman has ensured that redress is easily available to all, and helped to generate process changes and improvements in the way complainants are signposted to the service.

Last year the Energy Ombudsman started publishing energy data by company, to help consumers make informed decisions about their energy provider and introduced new requirements that mean failure to implement remedies in full within 28 days will be met with tougher penalties. It also identifies systemic issues in the energy sector in order to provide a fair market that consumers can be confident in.

Commenting on the ten-year anniversary, chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said “Since we launched the Energy Ombudsman a decade ago we have received more than 160,000 complaints. Our job is to take on individual consumer complaints about energy companies – which the companies themselves cannot agree upon – but we’ve also worked with many different organisations over the years to try and improve complaint handling across the energy industry. I’m pleased to see that after all our work there does seem to be a small reduction in complaints this year.

“There is still more work to be done, and we would like to see all companies signing up to the new Energy Switch Guarantee, which should give consumers the confidence to switch suppliers. Every year many customers attempting to cut their energy costs suffer problems switching to a cheaper provider, and energy companies who sign up for the service commit to working together to address concerns quickly. Consumers also have the assurance that if something does go wrong; the Energy Ombudsman is here to help. 

“We are disappointed that only five per cent of consumers with an eligible energy complaint come to us for help but looking ahead we will continue to raise awareness of our service through national and local media and outreach activity." 

Published 4 July 2016

(1) Since 2006, Ombudsman Services has received 163,726, complaints that fell within its terms of reference
(2) The Energy Ombudsman received 14,326 complaints in 2013, 40,776 complaints in 2014, 54,706 complaints in 2015 and 20,492 to date in 2016 – a total of 130,300 complaints