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4 Mar 2022

Common energy company complaints and how to resolve them

From missing bills to overpayments and changing direct debits, find out why energy companies are infuriating customers, and how to sort it out when they do
Energy customer service

We asked energy customers to tell us whether they'd had a problem with their energy company in the past year, and whether or not it had been resolved. Almost half (47%) of those who had cause to complain told us they were dissatisfied with how it was dealt with.

We surveyed 8,803 people in October 2021 to shed light on experiences with gas and electricity suppliers in the year prior. Our research found that 14% of the people we surveyed felt they had an issue to raise with their energy supplier between October 2020 and October 2021.

Here, we reveal what some of the most common issues are that customers raise with their energy firms, plus tips to get your complaint sorted swiftly.

What are the most common issues with energy providers?

Our October survey revealed that 14% of energy customers had had cause to complain in the last year. The vast majority (89%) of those people went on to launch a complaint.

Of those who did share their problem, around one in seven (14%) told us their issue was still being dealt with.

The most common complaints were:

  • 44%: bills or statements
  • 36%: customer service
  • 30%: switching
  • 24%: payments
  • 22%: gas or electricity meters
  • 16%: price increases
  • 10%: online or digital tools

Of the customers who didn't share their complaint with their energy company, around one in six (16%) told us they didn't have the time to do so. A similar number (15%) felt their problem wasn't serious enough to complain about.

Worryingly, more than one in 10 (11%) told us they were unable to work out how to launch a complaint with their energy company.

Which energy company had the most complaints?

Supplier% of customers who felt they had reason to complain
British Gas*15%
Eon Next12%
EDF Energy11%
Octopus Energy4%
Based on an online survey of 8,803 members of the public conducted by Which? in October 2021.
Notes on the table above
*British Gas Evolve changed its name to British Gas in November 2021. All customers are now with the British Gas brand. Over a third (35%) of British Gas Evolve customers felt they had reason to complain between October 2020 and October 2021.**Bulb was in special administration at the time of writing.
Sample sizes: Octopus Energy (997), Ovo Energy (228), So Energy (91), Utility Warehouse (129), Boost (113), Utilita (205), Outfox the Market (70), Bulb (518), British Gas (1,930), EDF Energy (845), Eon (978), Sainsbury's Energy (65), Scottish Power (553), SSE (609), Shell Energy (425), Eon Next (342), British Gas Evolve (152)

Octopus Energy had the lowest proportion of customers who felt they had something to complain about with their energy provider in the year to October 2021, at just 4%. But Boost had the largest number of customers who felt the same at 58%.

Not all energy companies are big enough to feature in our survey results. Find out more about small energy providers.

How to complain about energy bills

Of those customers who complained about payments, bills or price rises, almost a third (32%) told us their supplier took a one-off payment without warning. Around a fifth (21%) said they received an inaccurate bill, 13% said their direct debit payments increased without warning and 9% said it was difficult to get a refund from their provider when they were in credit.

If you get a bill you think is incorrect, you can dispute it with your supplier. You'll need to include why you think you've been charged the wrong amount with evidence to support your claim.

That's particularly clear right now, when households up and down the country are finding their bills soaring following the price cap change. If your bills seem even higher than you were expecting, make sure you take a closer look and query anything that doesn't seem right.

You can send the complaint letter either by email or post, but we recommend you keep a copy of everything for your own records in case you don't get the outcome you want and need to escalate it.

Here's a template letter you can send.

What to do if you're not getting any energy bills

It might seem like a blessing rather than a curse, but if you haven't received a bill from your supplier for a while and think you might be getting away without paying, you should contact the company as soon as possible. You're legally obliged to pay for the gas and electricity you use, so you don't want to risk a large back bill when they catch up to the error.

Should your provider fail to send you a bill after you've contacted it, the energy regulator Ofgem offers some protection. Gas and electricity firms are banned from back-billing customers for energy used more than 12 months before the error was detected, if it's found that it was the energy supplier's fault for not sending you your bills.

But should they find you to be at fault, your supplier can back-bill you for up to six years.

Your energy provider should offer you a payment plan that allows you to repay any debt over the same length of time it was built up. You can also suggest an alternative strategy if you feel your supplier is being unreasonable.

Find out more about your energy consumer rights, including what to do if you've been overcharged or your smart meter has been misread.

Customer service complaints

Woman on phone complaining

More than a third (36%) of customers who'd made a complaint had a problem with their energy firm's customer service, making it the second most common topic.

Find out more:energy companies' customer service compared

When raising a complaint about customer service, you should first to gather evidence to support your concern. If your energy firm has an official complaints procedure, follow its instructions and ensure you escalate your issue through this process in writing (email or letter) or over the phone.

Read through our step-by-step instructions in our guide to how to complain to your energy company.

You can also access additional support from Citizens Advice to help you kick off the process if you need to.

How to complain about switching providers and exit fees

30 pounds cash

Switching energy companies was also among the top complaints in our survey, with almost a third (30%) of complaints concerning switching.

At the moment, we're not recommending switching energy provider, as all the current fixed tariffs on the energy market are high above the out-of-contract price cap set by Ofgem.

However, if you do opt to switch and an exit fee payment has been taken when it shouldn't have been - within the last 49 days of your fixed-term contract, for instance - you must contact your supplier to let them know. This can be done in writing, either via email or a letter.

Keep copies of everything you send to your supplier, including energy bills. If the issue is not sorted through that initial correspondence, you can send a follow up email or letter stating details of what you discussed, the member(s) of staff you spoke to and the date of the conversation(s).

Should you not get a satisfactory response to this follow up message, you can then launch an official complaint with the ombudsman.

For now, if you're on a fixed-rate tariff it's best to remain with your current provider as you're unlikely to find a cheaper deal right now. But if you're on an out-of-contract tariff it's worth keeping an eye out in case better deals become available in the coming months now that the price cap has been announced.

Rising energy bills are a source of concern for many of us right now. Find out more about help if you're struggling to pay your energy bill. Or, head to our guide to how to save on your energy bill.