Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know

snow high up from ground to treets

Left out in the cold by your energy company? All you need to know about your rights
Well this is a Winter and a half isn’t it? Quite incredible. It is inevitable that many people will have had problems with their gas or electricity supply We just had a bit of emergency with the water tank too! So, in exceptional circumstances such as this weather, what are you rights?

I think one has to be aware that these are truly out-of-the-ordinary circumstances and to understand that energy companies are not going to be able to get to customers as quickly as they would normally. They have both the significant increase in call outs, but also it is as difficult for their repair people to get to you as anyone else driving. With all the accidents and deaths caused in this weather I do think we need to be aware of that. None of us would want someone to risk their life to fix our boiler, I’m sure.

However, companies should be doing all they can. They should have more staff in place during the Winter months and have emergency plans in place to deal with increased enquiries at times like this. You do still have rights and can claim for lack of gas or electricity supply and lack of service.

Your rights with weather-related energy problems on electricity pylon

Vulnerable Customers
Energy customers who are vulnerable (and usually you need to be on the company’s list as such) will take priority for any loss of supply or repair.

If you are struggling to get in contact with your provider, keep a note of all times you called, tried the website etc., as evidence to use in a complaint at a later date.

Cut in supply
In the case of a cut in your gas or electricity supply, it is your distributor, not the supplier, who is responsible. You can find out who your gas transporter is here and electricity supplier here. Complain to them if necessary.

In the event of an unplanned power cut you are entitled to set amounts of compensation. For electricity this varies depending upon the number of homes affected, how long you are without supply and how Ofgem categorises the storm.

In an unplanned power cut you are entitled to set amounts of compensation. For electricity this varies for the amount of homes affected, how long you are without supply and  how Ofgem categories the storm.

From the Ofgem website:
Service Guaranteed Standards payment
Supply restoration: severe weather
The time you are off supply before being able to claim varies according to severity of storm. This is because
the companies will have more work to do to fix faults.

Storm category 1: After 24 hours
Storm category 2: After 48 hours
£70 for domestic and non-domestic customers.

A further £70 will be paid for each additional period of 12 hours in which supply is not restored, up to a cap
of £700 in total.

This applies to both storm category 1 and storm category 2

More on  power cuts (e.g. multiple cuts) can be found on Ofgem Know Your Rights Power Cuts page.

For gas you will be paid £30 plus £30 for each 24-hour period without gas. See 1 little Known Fact You Need to Know When Your Gas is Cut Off!

If you are on the Priority Services Register or a cut was due to bad weather you SHOULD get the payment automatically. Keep an eye out though and claim if you don’t receive it.

You should be paid with 10 days of the end of the power supply cut if automatic and within 10 days from any claim. If not, make sure you get the extra £30 entitlement for that breach of the Standards.

Also useful to know… if you have more than 4 power cuts in one year you are entitled to £75. (The year runs from  01 April to 31 March).

Energy companies are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and so you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care.

Cold weather payment
This is different to the Winter fuel payment. If you receive certain benefits and the temperature was forecast to be or is zero degree celsius or below for seven consecutive days you will receive £25 for each 7 day period between 1 November and 31 March. You can check if you are eligible and whether you will receive the payment (you do not need to claim it will be automatic) on the Government Cold Weather Payments page. Details for how to claim if not received are also on the site.

Boiler and heater breakdowns and cover
You will need to check your policy. But in general if the company has been unable to undertake the repair you should be able to employ another tradesperson to do the work. British Gas for example has said that “some Homecare polices will cover reimbursement for work we are not able to do which is then done by a third party, if the work is covered by the policy. Customers should check their policy if they wish to claim for a reimbursement. They will need a VAT invoice from their tradesman in order to claim.”  When SE leaves your elderly aunt without adequate heating for 11 days…  tells the story of what I did to claim when they did that to my aunt!

Other help
See Ofgem Standards of Conduct and Quality Standards for what you should be able to expect from your supplier. If it fails to meet the level of service required it must make a compensation payment. However, note that they do not need to do this if severe weather makes it impossible to restore the supply. See above for this.

See All you need to know to make a complaint about energy for more information including how to complain when a provider leaves a vulnerable customer without supply, about bills and how best to prepare a case for the Energy Ombudsman. See Top 20 Tips How to Complain! should you need to start getting your case together!

Left out in the cold by a rail company? Your rights if you have been affected by train delays or cancellations.

Your rights if your water supply has been interrupted

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!







Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier


I often hear from people how they think an ombudsman hasn’t been fair or impartial in their case. Most frequently I hear the criticism that the ombudsman always sees in favour of the trader because the trader pays for membership. What people don’t realise is that’s the only way an ombudsman can be funded! But more importantly what people don’t realise is that they not only do they pay for yearly membership but they also pay per case whilst the customer pays nothing. So it is in the company’s interest for a case not to go to the ombudsman.

Sometimes, people approach the ombudsman with issues outside of their remit. Typically:

  • The complaint has been made too late – complainants have 12 months from the date the supplier issues its final response (known as a deadlock letter) to raise the issue with the ombudsman.
  • The complaint has been made prematurely (less than 8 weeks from the initial complaint or no deadlock letter received) – complainants need to raise the issue with the supplier and give them an opportunity to put things right before the ombudsman can become involved.
  • The trader does not participate in the ombudsman’s scheme.
  • The complaint is about a product or service which does not fall inside the ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

So, you have your issue, it falls within the remit and you still don’t get the decision you wanted so what do you do? I’ve asked Lewis Shand Smith the Chief Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services to share the traps people fall into and how to make a stronger case when submitting their issue. He looks at energy in particular but the points are valid for all sectors.

Head shot Lewis Shand SmithLewis Shand Smith Biography

Lewis Shand Smith was appointed Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman of Ombudsman Services in 2009. Ombudsman Services is a not for profit organisation which resolves disputes in the energy, communications, property, and copyright licensing sectors, amongst others. Lewis was also the Chair of the Ombudsman Association. Previously he was the Crown appointed Deputy Ombudsman and a member of the Executive Board at the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). He is a priest in the Scottish Episcopal church and has served several congregations in Motherwell, Shetland and Dumfries. He was a Canon of St Andrew’s cathedral in Aberdeen. From 1990 to 1999 Lewis was a member of Shetland Islands Council, becoming Convener/Leader in 1994. He has served as a non-executive director or trustee with a number of companies and charities. He is a former Vice President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, was a member of the Executive of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, and represented the UK on the European Committee of the Regions.

Submitting cases to an Ombudsman service

Ombudsman Services receives complaints in a variety of forms. There are complaints the energy supplier would have resolved if the right person had picked it up. There are complaints where the parties agree on the facts – but disagree on an appropriate remedy. There are complaints where the parties fundamentally disagree on the facts. And there are complaints where neither party has yet been able to understand what happened.

In the period November 2016 to October 2017, Ombudsman Services closed 49,117 energy complaints. Of those, it helped resolve 8% without investigating because the energy company was willing to provide the consumer with their desired resolution.

Of the complaints that Ombudsman Services investigated, it:

  • upheld 66% (finding that the energy supplier had done something wrong and had not done enough to put it right).
  • maintained 26% (finding that although the energy supplier had done something wrong, it had already offered a fair resolution to the customer).
  • did not uphold 8% of complaints, (concluding that there was no substance to the original complaint and the energy supplier had treated the customer fairly).

These figures suggest that the majority of complaints needed Ombudsman Services intervention to ensure a fair remedy for the consumer. But many could have been resolved without Ombudsman Services’ help. In most cases, the complaints reached Ombudsman Services because of a failure in the energy supplier’s complaint handling; but some could have benefited from better complaining from the consumer – or the consumer accepting a resolution that was already fair.

So, below are some common reasons why consumer actions mean a complaint is not resolved with the energy company – along with some advice on how not to fall into the traps.

5 top tips for ensuring you have the best case if you need the ombudsman on picture of electricity pylon


  1. Focusing on the problem, not the solution

It is very easy to focus on what went wrong and how it should never have happened. But a complaint normally only ends successfully when the wronged party focusses on what needs to be done to put things right. So, before you complain, think about what you would like your supplier to do to resolve your complaint – and let the supplier know.


  1. Disbelieving accurate responses

When things go wrong, people lose trust. So people often lack confidence in energy company’s answers. It can be worth seeking advice online or from friends and family. This can sometimes provide the reassurance consumers desire without the need for an ombudsman investigation.  See All you need to know to make a complaint about energy for advice, tips, information and consumer rights regarding energy complaints and  the Ombudsman website for Energy complaint advice and cases. 

  1. Unreasonable expectations / asking for bills or balances to be wiped

Energy suppliers do offer financial awards – but they are normally goodwill gestures to acknowledge what went wrong. Energy suppliers rarely relate awards to the size of a consumer’s outstanding balance.

Ombudsman Services applies similar principles in our complaint handling. Customers should pay the correct amount for the energy they have consumed. If something has gone wrong and a financial award is due – the amount will be proportionate to the trouble the consumer experienced – not the outstanding account balance.

  1. Failing to engage with an energy supplier

Poor energy supplier responses can leave consumers feeling that the problem won’t be resolved without help. But Ombudsman Services can only help after a consumer has tried to resolve the problem with the energy supplier direct for several weeks. As frustrating as it is, consumers should plug away with the energy company. Be clear about what the problem is and what needs to be done to put it right. Check out 20 Top Tips for complaining effectively to increase your chances before needing the Ombudsman. Hopefully someone at the energy company will understand the complaint and correct the problem. This will mean a far quicker resolution than if you go to the Ombudsman.

  1. Becoming too invested in the complaint

If a consumer feels they’ve been wronged, they’re likely to tell people about it. Sometimes it turns out that the consumer is at fault, and in such circumstances, it can be difficult for consumers to admit their error to other people on the complaint journey. They can reach for excuses and/or change the substance of their complaint so as not to lose face. This rarely leads to success and escalating to Ombudsman Services can sometimes prolong and increase the disappointment. If a consumer realises that they are wrong, there is sometimes value in not continuing the complaint.

If consumers feel wronged they should always complain; but they should do so in a focused way and seek a proportionate outcome.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!For tips on writing that initial complaint see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!


For information, advice, consumer law and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!



Rail Ombudsman is finally coming down the tracks – consultation closing soon

Press release

Rail passengers will soon get their long-awaited Rail Ombudsman, an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme for disgruntled railway users across the country. An Ombudsman provides an independent escalation process, beyond the railway company, to make decisions on passenger complaints.




Consultation closing soon
The Office of Rail and Road has said that it will introduce an ADR scheme in the rail sector. As this will require changes to rail companies’ Complaints Handling Procedures (CHPs), it is consulting on these changes. The Rail Delivery Group , (working with others as part of an Ombudsman Task Force, has developed proposals which they envisage will see an ADR scheme for rail passengers introduced on a voluntary basis in early 2018.

The consultation on this important issue closes on the 7 November 2017. Yet there has been no coverage in the media nor any push from Government to ensure the general public see this and are given a chance to respond. Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! welcomes the consultation but is dismayed at the lack of coverage. “Nearly every commuter has had reason to complain about at least one train journey in recent years! But at the moment very few even know their rights never mind how to take their complaints further!”

Current situation
In 2013 Transport Focus found that almost nine in 10 of passengers eligible for compensation for delays, did not claim. In 2016 it spoke to over 7000 passengers and found that the number claiming compensation has increased to 35 per cent in 2016. The research shows how few people are claiming what they are owed.

Dewdney says that there are other legal rights for complaints in the rail sector but even fewer people are aware of these than those around delays.

“The rail companies all have a passenger charter which links to the National Rail Network guidelines. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 was applied to rail travel from 1st October 2016. You are now entitled to services which must be carried out with reasonable skill and care. If they are not then you should be able to gain redress. Things for which you may gain redress under this Act are:

  • overcrowding
  • not able to use a booked seat
  • claim for consequential losses

If you complain and you think the response is unsatisfactory you can take the matter further. If your journey was outside London then you go through Transport Focus For London and surrounding areas (including those on London Underground or London Overground) contact the London Travel Watch  but decisions made by them are not binding on the rail companies.

Proposed scheme
The proposed Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme would be binding on the rail companies that joined. This means they would be obliged to act upon the ombudsman’s decision.

Marcus Williamson the editor of consumer information website, who
has been monitoring private ADR schemes since 2014, said “If a Rail Ombudsman is to be effective it must be truly independent and its performance closely monitored by Government. Those running it should have passed a ‘fit and proper person’ test and be fully accountable to the public, as well as to the rail companies.”

Williamson and Dewdney wrote the June 2016 report “Ombudsman Omnishambles” where a number of issues were highlighted regarding the regulation of Ombudsmen. They are concerned that whilst these issues have still not been addressed or resolved by the relevant regulatory bodies, the proposed Rail Ombudsman system could mean that consumers are put at risk again.

What can be done to rectify it?

  • A “Fit and proper person” test, as already required in many business and public sector environments, should be introduced for the trusted “Ombudsman” role and  ADR providers.
  • Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) must implement ongoing monitoring of ADR bodies, rather than rely on an annual review. This should include checking that statements made in the media are true and that the company’s accounts properly reflect the ombudsman’s performance.
  • CTSI, Department for Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy (BEIS) or Ombudsman Association (OA) should provide a means by which the public can lodge complaints about ADR providers and develop procedures by which the relevant body can take the necessary action.
  • The rail ADR/ombudsmen schemes must be established appropriately, effectively and properly.
  • It should be compulsory for rail companies to join the ADR/ombudsman scheme.


Update 08 February 2018. Changes to complaints handling guidance – decision letter and the consultation responses.

Further reading for information on misleading consumers, business and the failure of the regulatory bodies:

Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight

The Ombudsman Omnishambles continues… Even on Conflict Resolution Day…

Ongoing Ombudsman Omnishambles

The Retail Ombudsman is no more

ORR Response to consultation by Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney




Useful Complaining Information!


If you have come here from seeing me on the telly box or heard me on the radio recently here are some links you might like to help you complain effectively.

Top 20 Tips on complaining effectively

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers (this is a post with links to various posts helping you with any issues you may have with telecoms so a lot of links!

All you need to know about complaining to energy providers (post with links to various posts about different issues)

Consumer Rights Act 2015 (your legal rights for goods and services) please note that change of mind is not covered. I don’t mention it when talking about complaints because it isn’t a complaint. Some companies will take something back when you change your mind but legally they do not have to do so.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! Best selling book with advice, guidance, information, legal rights and templates for always getting that redress! for contact details for CEOs.

Loads more around the blog, just put in a search 😀

Sign up to the newsletter to keep up to date with information, I only send a few a year!


All you need to know to make a complaint about energy

So much to complain about in the energy sectors?! Listed below are links to various helpful posts about any issue you may be having with your supplier, your rights, how to get it sorted and gain redress.Electricity pylon Everything you need to know to complain about energy problems

All you need to know when your phone/energy bill is wrong how to complain about a wrong bill

How To Take Charge of Your Energy Bills – advice and tips about switching

When SE leaves your elderly aunt without adequate heating for 11 days… story about being without heating for 11 days and the redress gained

Your energy and your rights – what you should know mis-sellling, putting people on the wrong tariffs and over charging

Ofgem Standards of Conduct and Quality Standards companies have to abide by certain standards

All You Need To Know About Comparison Websites accreditation and FCA

Do Morethan just comparison websites for insurance quotes! how to do more than just use a comparison website for energy, insurance etc.

1 little Known Fact You Need to Know When Your Gas is Cut Off! Gas Standards and entitlements

Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier Ombudsman from Ombudsman Services gives tips on how to make sure you complain effectively right from the start so if you do need to go to the Ombudsman you will be successful.

Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know if your energy supply was affected by the weather.

Tips for effective complaining

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!



How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for masses of advice, tips, guidance and template letters




Use to find the email address of the company CEO and write to him or her particularly if the company doesn’t provide an email address for you to write to customer services!

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Discussing NPower complaints