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6. The Energy Ombudsman
The Energy Ombudsman is an independent body approved by Ofgem. The Ombudsman resolves disputes and complaints after negotiation has failed. The Ombudsman operates across the UK. The Ombudsman schemes tend to offer members of the public a relatively informal and cheap alternative to civil litigation.1R (on the application of Thakerar) v Ombudsman Service Energy [2013] EWHC 2283 (Admin)
The Ombudsman covers problems related to:
    energy bills;
    sales activity;
    switching gas or electricity supplier;
    the supply of energy to a home, such as power cuts and connections;
    micro generation and feed-in tariffs.
You can only refer your complaint to the Ombudsman if you have tried to resolve it with your energy provider but have received a ‘deadlock letter’ (see here) or eight weeks have passed since you first made your complaint to your provider. The Energy Ombudsman expects you to have fully exhausted the supplier’s complaints process first.
If you have been unable to resolve your complaint with your supplier within eight weeks, you can escalate your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman. You can use the online complaints service at Be clear what you are complaining about and what you would like the outcome to be. It is also a good idea to include a chronology of events, listing key events in date order. This provides a summary of what happened and when, which assists the Ombudsman in analysing the situation. If you have incurred financial losses, submit copies of receipts, bills and invoices you have had to pay to corroborate what you claim.
If the Ombudsman decides to make an award, and you accept it, your supplier has to abide by the decision. The Ombudsman can ask your supplier to provide any or all of the following:
    a service or some practical action that will benefit you;
    an apology or explanation;
    a financial award up to £10,000 (£10,000 is only payable in exceptional cases; normally awards are much lower).
If the energy company does not follow the recommendations of the Ombudsman, it may be reported to Ofgem for action. The Ombudsman does not have powers to enforce awards. In 2019, Ofgem ordered Scottish Energy to repay £1.97 million to 157,236 customers after overcharging.
All of the UK’s major energy providers are members of the Ombudsman scheme, which means that they have to abide by any decision that it makes about your complaint.
It is possible to ask for the Ombudsman’s decision to be reviewed if you are unhappy with any aspect of it. The Ombudsman is required to meet the requirements laid down in the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015.
The Ombudsman received 18,944 complaints in the year up to September 2021 and achieved 16,517 dispute resolutions. The most common issues were over billing, payments and smart metering. Data on complaints is published at
There is a limit to the legal issues which the Ombudsman can consider (eg, if an examination of the application of common law contractual concepts or the interpretation of contractual terms is involved). The Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints that have already been to court or are due to go to court. If you have started court proceedings, the Ombudsman may be able to help if you abandon, stay or suspend the court proceedings. You cannot seek compensation under the Ombudsman scheme and continue to take civil proceedings.2R (on the application of Thakerar) v Ombudsman Service Energy [2013] EWHC 2283
For more information, visit
Complaints to the Energy Ombudsman
In 2019, the Energy Ombudsman received 68,000 consumer and microbusiness complaints – a 26 per cent increase on the previous year’s figure. The number of complaints resolved also increased by 25 per cent to nearly 57,000. Billing was the leading causing of complaints, followed by payments and debt issues and customer service. There was also a rise in complaints about switching.3‘Thousand switch’ energy firms after price cap’, Business Insider, 18 April 2019
1     R (on the application of Thakerar) v Ombudsman Service Energy [2013] EWHC 2283 (Admin) »
2     R (on the application of Thakerar) v Ombudsman Service Energy [2013] EWHC 2283 »
3     ‘Thousand switch’ energy firms after price cap’, Business Insider, 18 April 2019 »