Ofgem sets the rules
Ofgem - the electricity and gas regulator - sets the rules on how quickly electricity distribution companies must respond to power cuts.
Ofgem also sets the rules on the information that these companies must provide to customers.
Ofgem has Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards which are service levels that must be met by electricity distribution companies.
If they fail to meet the level of service required - for example you’ve experienced prolonged or frequent power cuts - you could be entitled to compensation.
What's a distribution company?
Your electricity distribution company owns and operates the towers and cables that bring electricity from the national transmission network to cities, towns and villages and so is responsible if there’s a power cut.
These companies don’t sell electricity to you, this is done by electricity suppliers. So your electricity supplier is not the same as your distribution company.
You can find out who your electricity distribution company is by looking at the bill you get from your supplier.
If you can’t find this information on your bill, Ofgem also provides contact details for all UK electricity distribution companies.
Different companies operate in different regions, so you’ll be able to search by region.
What am I entitled to?
If the electricity distribution company for your area fails to meet the level of service required, you could be entitled to compensation.
The amount paid to customers depends on factors such as the number of hours you’ve been without power and the severity of the weather.
You must make a claim within three months of your electricity supply being fixed. If you suffer multiple outages, this time frame applies each time power is restored.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the compensation does not cover any subsequent financial loss.
The electricity distribution companies have 24 hours to restore electricity supply if it fails due to a storm.
If not, £70 should be paid to customers, with a further £70 to be paid for each additional period of 12 hours in which supply is not restored, up to a cap of £700.
For a severe storm, the amount you receive will be the same but won’t start until you’ve had 48 hours without power.
The difference between a storm and a severe storm is to do with the number of supply faults experienced in a 24 hour period.
For more information on the technical differences between the two, read the Ofgem power cut guidance.
As a general rule, electricity distribution companies have 12 hours to restore electricity supply if it fails during normal weather conditions.
However, there are some variants to this depending on the number of homes affected.
If the company fails to do this, £75 should be paid to household customers (business customers get £150).
A further £35 should be paid for each additional period of 12 hours in which supply is not restored.
- If the electricity distribution company for your area fails to meet the level of service required, you could be entitled to compensation.
- The amount paid to customers depends on factors such as the number of hours you’ve been without power and the severity of the weather.
- You must make a claim within three months of your electricity supply being fixed.
Compensation for multiple interruptions is more complex and depends on issues like failing supply due to problems with the distributor's fuse and supply shortages.
It can also depend on the frequency in which you experience power cuts.
In many cases, it's likely you'll need to have experienced at least three hours of power loss, on at least four different occasions, over a 12 month period (starting 1 April every year) before you’re able to claim compensation.
Compensation levels range from £30 to £75 for household customers depending on the casue. For business customers this range increases to £150.
Communication with customers
Distribution companies are required to give customers at least two days’ notice of planned power cuts.
If not, household customers can claim £30 (business customers can claim £60). This also applies if customer's are given notice for the wrong day.
There are also rules around problems with voltage and appointment keeping. Distributors must keep to a timed appointment in one of three time slots:
- am - before 1pm
- pm - after 12pm
- a specific two-hour time band
If your electricity distribution company fails to turn up in your agreed time slot, you could get £30 compensation.
How to claim compensation
Different electricity distribution companies have different claim mechanisms, so to find out how to make a claim you need to contact your distribution company.
Ofgem provides contact details for all UK distribution companies.
Different electricity distribution companies operate in different regions, so you will be able to search by region.
Failure to pay compensation
Distribution companies have 10 days in which to make a payment for failing to meet any of the Guaranteed Standards. The only exception is if you've lost power as a result of severe weather, in which case distribution companies must make payment as soon as reasonably possible.
In both cases if payment is late, distribution companies must pay you an extra £30.