Ombudsman Services, a private company that deals with consumer complaints about energy companies, has reported an increase of almost 25% in the number of complaints it received about energy companies, climbing to more than 25,000 forms filled out in the last year.
20,099 of these were then officially investigated, compared to only 17,031 in the preceding twelve months. 60% of those ended with compensation being paid by the energy company involved to the plaintiff. The majority of complaints come from either inaccurate billing, a lack of communication on behalf of the companies, inadequate provision of services, or poor customer service.
Ombudsmen are independent groups that have to be approved by government bodies but are free to use for consumers. Ombudsman Services is funded by money from the energy companies themselves, but can only operate if it follows the rigorous standards laid out by the energy regulator Ofgem, which does not deal with individual customer complaints.
They provide a valuable service and are an important part of the tools that consumers have to take action against companies. As they are free to use, they are much more open than legal action and so present a more accurate picture of how customers feel about an industry.
This rise in complaints is a serious matter for energy companies, coming as it does at a time of repeated price rises and worries that the private energy industry is failing to do its part in the building of a new generation of power plants or the furthering of a green energy agenda.
With so many large institutions finding that public anger is now translating into political will, and more and more privatised industries are being taken to task by committees, enquiries, watchdogs, pressure groups and more, the energy industry could be the next to find itself across the front pages of the UK’s media.