District and communal heating

District heating, sometimes known as communal heating, is a heat supply that is an alternative to gas. The technology has been developed to help reduce the carbon emissions within the United Kingdom in accordance with the Government’s commitments. A contract is usually formed between the district/communal heating supplier and the developer or Housing Association to use the heat technology within the premises. This is usually for a period in excess of 20 years, which means that a customer cannot transfer their supply to an alternative energy source, such as gas.

To ensure that district/communal heating customers receive an efficient service from their heat supplier a scheme called Heat Trust was created in November 2015. Although it is a voluntary scheme, it is supported by Government as a self-regulation initiative that recognises best practice. Heat Trust sets the customer service standards and customer protection requirements it expects district/communal heating suppliers that are a member of its service to provide.

Heat Trust members covered by our scheme 

Heat Trust is a member of Ombudsman Services: Energy; we can therefore look at complaints about suppliers that are members of its scheme. This includes:

  • E.ON Energy Solutions Ltd 
  • East London Energy Ltd 
  • Metropolitan King’s Cross T/A 95 Degrees 
  • SSE Heat Networks Ltd 
  • Switch2 Energy Ltd 
  • The Paintworks ESCO Ltd 
If you have a complaint about one of the above suppliers we recommend that you contact the company and allow it eight weeks to resolve your complaint. This advice may help. If after eight weeks your complaint remains unresolved please get in touch.

What we can look at

The Energy Ombudsman can look at complaints that relate to:

  • Billing
    • Incorrect tariff charges
    • Incorrect standing charge rate applied
  • Meter faults
  • Water temperature
  • Fault with Home Interface Unit
  • Customer service
*This list is not exhaustive

What we cannot look at

Scenario one

A customer purchases a property and finds that they are unable to transfer their heat supply to another supplier. 

We cannot look at this type of complaint as a contract has been agreed between the developer/Housing Association and the supplier. The contract in place is usually associated with the district heating set up within the housing complex and can run for over 20 years.

The Energy Ombudsman would expect the developer/Housing Association to inform a potential buyer of the district heating agreement prior to the purchase of the property. In this scenario we recommend that you contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for further information on how you can proceed with the complaint if you were not informed of the agreement prior to your purchase.

Scenario two

A customer purchases a property and receives a contract from the supplier that includes a Standing Charge/Capital Replacement Fund Charge. The customer is informed that the charges relate to the upkeep and maintenance of the meter and pipework within the property. The customer wishes to opt out of paying these charges.

We cannot look into this type of complaint as we cannot instruct a supplier to amend a specific contract rate and its associated charges.

Scenario three

A customer receives an Energy Performance Certificate that shows the projected annual costs for the heat supply at the property. However, upon receipt of the bill the customer notices that the charges for the supply are significantly higher than those shown on the Energy Performance Certificate.

The Energy Performance Certificate shows an estimated projection on the actual energy consumed at a property. It does not include charges such as Standing Charges/Capital Replacement Fund Charges. 

Therefore, if you find that the increase in your bills is related to additional charges such as Standing Charges/Capital Replacement Fund Charges then we cannot criticise the validity of the Energy Performance Certificate.

If, however, the Standing Charges/Capital Replacement Fund Charges differ from those that you agreed to then this is something that the Energy Ombudsman can look at.