In the intricate world of energy supply, businesses navigate a complex landscape, and disputes with energy providers can disrupt operations and impact the bottom line. Enter the Energy Ombudsman – a critical player in ensuring fairness and resolution in the energy sector.
This comprehensive guide is designed to equip businesses with everything they need to know about the Energy Ombudsman, from its inception and functions to the protection it offers and the steps for seeking redress.
Understanding the Energy Ombudsman
Inception and Evolution
The Energy Ombudsman, established in 2002, emerged to address the pressing need for an independent body capable of overseeing and resolving disputes within the energy sector. Over the years, it has evolved into a cornerstone entity, adapting to the changing dynamics of the industry to meet the needs of businesses and consumers alike.
Currently operating under the umbrella of the Trust Alliance Group, the Energy Ombudsman underscores its commitment to excellence in dispute resolution. This affiliation positions it as a trusted authority in facilitating fair outcomes for businesses and consumers.
Protecting Businesses: The Role of the Energy Ombudsman
Shielding Consumer Rights
At its core, the Energy Ombudsman serves as a shield for businesses, offering an impartial and independent channel for resolving disputes with energy suppliers. Whether it’s issues with billing, service disruptions, or contractual disagreements, the ombudsman ensures a fair resolution process that reinstates businesses to their pre-issue position.
With a track record of successfully resolving over 1.3 million complaints, the Energy Ombudsman has proven its efficacy in delivering fair outcomes for businesses and consumers. This numerical testament speaks volumes about its role in maintaining a balanced and just energy marketplace.
What sort of problems can the Energy Ombudsman resolve?
The energy ombudsman can resolve problems centered around:
- Smart meters: not sending readings
- Smart meters: MTC timeswitch code inaccuracies
- Back billing
- Debt and payment
What complaints can I not make to the energy ombudsman?
The OS:E cannot help you deal with issues regarding:
- Price changes by your supplier
- “Malicious” or “unjustified” cases
- Complaints about liquid petroleum gas
- Problems deemed better suited to courts
While it’s hard to find specific case studies relating to a business resolving a complaint with the energy ombudsman, here is an example of the type of problems they fix.
The consumer purchased their property in 2015, setting up a dual-fuel account. Regular monthly payments were made for both electricity and gas. In July 2021, the supplier informed the consumer of an outstanding £2,000 gas bill, revealing a partial record error during an audit. The supplier blamed the consumer for not noticing the billing discrepancy, insisting on full payment. Upon review, the Energy Ombudsman found the supplier’s fault in failing to register the gas account initially. The customer was deemed unaware of the issue, and it was deemed unreasonable to expect payment for 12 months of gas. The supplier was required to clear other charges, resulting in a £1,550 reduction in the consumer’s balance.
Navigating the Energy Ombudsman: Steps for Businesses
A. Seeking Redress
For businesses looking to complain, the Energy Ombudsman provides a crucial avenue for seeking redress. While legal action through the courts is an option, many businesses, especially smaller ones, lack the necessary resources. The Energy Ombudsman offers a free and impartial service, ensuring accessibility for businesses of all sizes.
B. Proposed Expansion
Recognizing the need for broader access, there is a current proposal to amend the Gas and Electricity Regulated Providers (Redress Scheme) Order 2008. The aim is to extend access to redress specifically for small businesses, ensuring that a wider spectrum of businesses can benefit from the ombudsman’s services.
What are the new rules for businesses and the energy ombudsman?
Currently, only businesses meeting the criteria of a relevant consumer, termed microbusinesses by Ofgem, with a non-domestic energy contract can access the Energy Ombudsman for dispute resolution assistance with their energy supplier. The Ofgem review highlighted that more businesses would benefit from this service.
While legal action through the courts is an option, many businesses, especially small ones, lack the necessary resources. The Legal Services Board Survey 2021 revealed that half of small businesses either sought to resolve their legal issues independently or took no action at all.
The consultation proposes:
- Introducing a new small business definition into the 2008 Order.
- Expanding access to redress for businesses with up to 50 employees and:
- An annual turnover of £6.5 million.
- A balance sheet total of £5 million.
- An annual electricity consumption of 500,000 kWh OR an annual gas consumption of 500,000 kWh.
Including small businesses in the threshold for seeking redress through the Energy Ombudsman would encompass an additional 4% of the UK business population, combined with micro businesses. This would increase the total percentage of businesses eligible for redress to 99%, representing at least an additional 200,000 businesses in the UK.
How to get in contact with the energy ombudsman
If you’re looking to raise a complaint you can contact the Energy Ombudsman in the following ways:
- Online: Visit the Energy Ombudsman website and submit an online complaint form.
- Phone: Call the Energy Ombudsman’s helpline at 0330 440 1624 (or 0330 440 1600 for textphone users).
- Email: Email the Ombudsman at firstname.lastname@example.org.