Ombudsman Services energy case summaries

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1 Ombudsman Services energy case summaries Guide to case summaries The table included in this document includes a selection of recent complaints. These are complaints, from consumers (household and small businesses) about energy companies. We do not name the complainant or the company involved. We publish these anonymous summaries so that we can share more practical information on how we resolved real cases and help to manage expectations around the level of financial awards we make. We publish more data in our annual reports. These summaries explain the type of complaint and the nature of the problem. We summarise what we found out and what, if anything, we required the company to do, to put things right. We use the following headings: Complaint type This is the type of complaint we looked at. Almost all of the complaints that we are asked to resolve are about problems with energy bills. Detail This includes any relevant background to the complaint and the complainant s view of their problem. Before we accept any complaint we must give the company a reasonable opportunity to resolve it. They have up to eight weeks to do this. Review When we look into the complaint, to find out what went wrong, we will take into account: both sides of the story; regulatory rules, guidance and standards, codes of practice, relevant law and regulations; and what is accepted as good industry practice. Where we find that something has gone wrong, we aim to find quick, informal and realistic resolutions to the complaint which both parties agree on. Resolution

2 It is not our role to punish energy companies when deciding what resolution to provide. Our awards are proportionate and take into account the facts in the complaint. An award might include any of the following: a service or a practical action; an apology; an explanation of what has happened; or a financial award (this will be an amount that we consider appropriate to the individual complaint). Financial awards We can award up to 5,000 but the average award is much less, about 135. These are financial awards required by the ombudsman in addition to any financial goodwill that the company may have already offered during its earlier attempts to resolve the complaint.

3 Complaint type Detail Review Resolution Financial awards Billing Quality of customer service The complainant built up a duel fuel debt with the energy company over a period of six years. A prepayment meter was installed to manage the debt. During installation of a new gas meter a leak was found and the meter replaced. The complainant believed that the leak was the root cause of the high usage and disputed the debt. We identified that the complainant s usage had significantly dropped following the installation of the pre pay meter. We concluded that the leak was the type that would only be discovered during major work such as installation of a new meter. On the balance of evidence the We concluded that the leak would have contributed to the high gas consumption before installation of the new meter and the discovery of the leak. We decided that the company s offer to reduce the bill was satisfactory. The energy company was required to: maintain its original offer of a discount on the bill; send a letter of apology and arrange a weekly payment plan to clear the debt. No additional financial award was required. Anonymous case summaries

4 Billing Quality of customer service Following a scheduled replacement of a gas meter, the complainant noticed that the serial number on the bill was incorrect. Therefore the complainant was paying the incorrect amount for their usage. The energy company amended its records and recalculated the bill. The complainant received a refund and an additional goodwill credit for the inconvenience caused. The complainant requested that the energy company increase its offer by 100. We established that a third party organisation had exchanged the meter did not update the central database correctly. This meant that the energy company s records were out of date. When the complainant notified the energy company of the error it amended its records to include the correct new meter number and recalculated the bills. The energy company offered a goodwill payment and an apology. We concluded that as the energy company didn t arrange the meter replacement that it would not have known about the change in serial number. When the energy company was alerted to the error it took appropriate steps to resolve the problem. We concluded that no further action was necessary. No additional financial award was required. The energy company would not increase its offer. Anonymous case summaries

5 Billing Direct debits The complainant was unhappy that the energy company withdrew a direct debit without prior notification. The direct debit was more than usual; this caused the complainant s bank account to become overdrawn. The complainant contacted the supplier and requested that it waive the entire dual fuel bill to resolve the complaint. We established that the direct debit had increased as the complainant s consumption had greatly increased during the previous two quarters. The energy company had been unable to read the gas meter as it was obstructed by furniture, so the complainant had provided regular meter readings. The complainant s consumption had increased as they had a lodger during that period. We concluded that the charges, based on the customer s readings were correct. The company however had not notified the customer of the planned increased, within the required notification period of 10 days of debiting the account. This was considered a shortfall in customer service, but a full waive of the outstanding bill was not proportionate to the problems experienced. We awarded: a written apology and a financial award. An award was made between Anonymous case summaries

6 Feed in tariff (FIT) Incomplete registration The complainant had solar panels fitted to their home and signed up to an energy company s FIT scheme. The complainant completed and supplied the energy company with all the relevant paperwork. Our involvement prompted the energy company to calculate the payments it owed the complainant and to complete the necessary paperwork. The company also offered a financial goodwill credit for the shortfall in customer service and attributed this to mis placing some of the complainant s paperwork. The energy company was required to: calculate all payments owed at the correct rate and to issue a refund; provide a written apology and increase the goodwill credit An additional award was made of between 1-50 The complainant was unhappy, that for almost nine months they had attempted to resolve the problem and that they still had not received any payments, (for electricity generated) from the energy company or any confirmation of the agreed rates or paperwork. We recognised the efforts that the complainant had gone to, to try and resolve the problem. In recognition of this we asked the company to increase its offer of financial goodwill. Anonymous case summaries

7 Billing Quality of customer service The complaint agreed a payment plan with the energy company. They had not been able to meet the requirements. The complainant was unhappy that the debt was passed to a collection agency and that they had been contacted by more than one debt agency requesting payments. The complainant believed that the energy company was giving them incorrect information about who the debt was with and requested a reduction of the debt. We concluded that the energy company had closed the customer s account and sold the debt to a collection agency. This was because the complainant had not kept to the agreed plan, had moved home and was no longer a customer. We explained that once a debt was transferred to a collection company, then it was outside of Ombudsman Services terms of reference. We clarified that it is common for collection agencies to transfer debts between each other and again this is outside of the terms of reference. We decided that it was also outside of the energy company s control what happened to a debt once it had been passed to a collection agency. When contacted it did give the complainant appropriate advice on who held the debt. There was no further action required from the company. No award. Anonymous case summaries

8 Transfer of services Erroneous transfer The complainant took a lease on a new business. Following a cold call by an energy broker (an independent third party that sells energy tariffs) the complainant agreed to transfer their services. The complainant later believed that they had been mis-sold. The broker led them to believe that they had no supplier and may be fined for not having a fixed contract. The complainant received an early termination fee from a different supplier. The complainant then wanted to remain with the existing supplier We investigated the complaint and were able to confirm that the complainant had been making payments to the old supplier, and was therefore aware that they did have an existing account with an energy company. We listened to the broker s call recording and it was apparent that the complainant agreed to a contract. We decided that the complainant willingly entered into a new contract. We stated that the complainant should have contacted their existing provider to clarify whether any penalty/termination fees would be charged before agreeing to take a new deal. The energy company was required to: liaise with the old supplier to ensure that both suppliers agree and use the same transfer readings; provide a copy of the sales recording; re-bill the account; install a smart meter free of charge; and reduce the rates to 1p below the standard market tracker price, going forward. No financial award. The new supplier said that the complainant had a contract with them and also issued them with a termination fee. Anonymous case summaries

9 The complainant contacted the new supplier to complain about the sales broker. Billing other There were also some complaints about usage readings during the switch over and how much was owed to the losing provider including late payment fees. Before contacting us the complainant had complained that they received a large bill ( 9,000). The complainant believed that the meter was faulty due to a lightning strike on the local transformer. A meter exchange occurred and the bill was reduced. The complainant was unhappy that this took more than one year to resolve. The customer then complained that We investigated and discovered that following the first large bill the company replaced the meter and significantly reduced the bill to less than However these issues had taken more than one year to resolve and the complaint still was not satisfied. We revealed that the second bill was caused by a long period of estimated readings from the customer and the fact that the customer had not made any payments for some time. We also confirmed that the company had tested the meter more than once and no faults were found. We awarded an independent meter accuracy test; a report of the results of the meter and if the meter is found to be operating outside prescribed tolerances recalculate the bills; maintain its offer of a payment plan; a written apology for the short falls in customer service experienced and; maintain its offer to credit the account as a gesture of goodwill. No additional financial award, company was to maintain its original offer. Anonymous case summaries

10 following the meter exchange a 2,000 bill was issued two years later. The complainant believed that the new meter was at fault and complained to the energy company. They requested a reduction of the bill. We ordered an independent test of the meter to help clear up the customer s concerns. As the complaint had taken a few years to resolve this was considered a shortfall in customer service. The company said that the charges were valid and offered a credit to the bill to due to the time taken to resolve the complainants on going issues. Anonymous case summaries

11 Billing Back billing A complainant took over a new business premises and was incorrectly billed for over three years. Our investigations revealed that the company had used incorrect meter readings for over three years and that this was a shortfall in customer service. We awarded: a repayment plan for the outstanding bill. No additional financial award was awarded. The first bill was over 12,000 this was disputed and meter was found to be at fault. In recognition of this the company reduced the bill by 50% The complainant was requesting a further discount to the bill, because of the incorrect readings and meter fault. The readings taken were inaccurate (using 5 digits instead of 6) This meant the complainant was under billed and had actually been underpaying. We confirmed that the meter was faulty and was running unacceptably slow (outside of tolerance levels). This however was in the complainants favour and the company chose not to recalculate which would have further increased the outstanding bill. We considered the companies offer to reduce the bill reasonable. Anonymous case summaries

12 Other Workmanship The complaint s lived in a block of flats their neighbour, in the ground floor flat reported a smell of gas. An engineer visited and identified the problem to be in the complainant s flat upstairs, and definitely not an external leak. The supply was disconnected and the complainant was advised to call a gas safety engineer to investigate and fix any issues in their property. Our investigations revealed that the energy network s engineer had incorrectly diagnosed the problem. They had missed the fact that the gas leak was external and therefore its responsibility. This was considered a shortfall in customer service. The complainant was without a gas supply for three day and was entitled to a guaranteed standards of service payment, that had not been offered. We awarded: reimbursement of expenses for the gas safety engineer call out; a guaranteed standard payment of 90 and a written apology. No additional financial award was required. The gas safety engineer visited and confirmed that the leak was not in the complainant s property and that it was external. The complainant was billed for the visit. The network provider took three days to Anonymous case summaries

13 restore the complainant s supply. Evacuation and Reinstatement Quality of Customer Service The complainant s gas supply was disconnected in error. The complainant was considered vulnerable, so the company made remedial works to reconnect the supply. This involved some excavation work and the complainant s garden and wall were damaged by the contractors. The complainant s building was listed so complainant wanted the company to Our investigations revealed that because of the disruption the complainant was eligible for a guaranteed standards of service payments, that had not been offered. The company had already made a financial offer to the complainant to cover the remedial works which they had rejected. The complainants supply had been disconnected in error, so we asked for the financial offer to be increased. The energy company was required to: send a written apology to the customer; apply guaranteed standards of service payments and increase its offer of financial goodwill. An additional award was made of: Between Anonymous case summaries

14 reimburse costs of the repairs. Edit: insert copy here. Anonymous case summaries

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