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.
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:
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.
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 had the largest number of customers who felt the same at 58%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Switching energy companies was also among the top complaints in our survey, with almost a third (30%) of complaints concerning switching.
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.