Energy customers owed £5.1m in compensation
Energy customers are missing out on millions of pounds worth of compensation for dodgy services and relentless power cuts.
It's normally countries like North Korea where the lights go out on a regular basis, but thousands of households across Britain experience the same thing.
Citizens Advice has compiled a study that shows energy providers have failed to make £5.1million of compensation payments in the last three years.
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The research showed that while £17.2million in compensation has been paid over the past three years, Brits missed out on an extra £5.1million that could have been claimed.
It says "very few" households and small businesses claim the payments, due to a combination of not realising they qualified for compensation, forgetting to claim, or not applying within the three-month time limit.
Essentially, if your energy provider goes down due to bad weather, technical faults or a whole host of other mistakes, you're owed money.
And that's fair enough - if energy firms are going to hike tariffs by as much as 10% year-on-year, the expectation is that they'll actually keep the ruddy lights on! It's the minimum anyone would expect!
If you go out for dinner and the food never arrives, you don't pay. So why should you pay your energy tariff if your energy provider can't guarantee a reliable service?
But Citizens Advice says networks are failing to compensate customers as much as they should.
Its reports says one electricity customer with a one-year-old baby complained following numerous power cuts over a two-week period.
Despite repeated calls to the network company, the family was never contacted or sent promised information about how to make a complaint.
In another example, a gas customer whose supply was cut off for 10 days by a contractor carrying out roadworks was continually referred back to the contractor by the network supplier and was not offered any temporary heating or cooking facilities.
Citizens Advice is now calling on Ofgem to tighten its current regulations and to introduce automatic compensation.
It says network companies also need to work harder to make customers more aware of the compensation they are entitled to.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "This money should be in customers' pockets. We want Ofgem to get tougher with the energy network companies so that customers automatically receive all the compensation they're entitled to.
"Guaranteed standards should mean guaranteed compensation. At the very least there should be a system of financial penalties for those energy firms who still don't proactively pay people what they're due."
Here's how you can claim compensation if you suffer a power cut:
When payments are automatic
If the power cut was caused by bad weather, you should be paid compensation without having to claim.
But if you don’t receive the compensation you can claim it yourself by contacting your network provider. See below for how to do this.
When payments are not automatic
If the outage was caused by something else, you’ll need to claim compensation from the company that manages the distribution of your gas or electricity, and not your supplier.
The name of your distribution company should be clear on the bill you receive from your supplier, or on your meter cabinet.
Alternatively, you can check out the maps of gas distributors and electricity networks on the Energy Networks Association's website.
You'll need to contact the network and claim within three months of your supply being fixed, except for planned cuts without proper noticed - these must be claimed within one month.
The distribution company or gas transporter will usually send the payment to your supplier, which will then credit it to your account.
If you have a prepayment meter, some suppliers can credit the meter directly. Others will send you a cheque or vouchers.
How much you can claim
The amount you can get depends on why your energy supply was disrupted and for how long - payouts range from £30 to £700, according to Ofgem figures.
You should be paid within 10 days of claiming, or if the power cut was caused by bad weather, you should be paid as soon as is reasonable.
If you’re not paid within these timescales, you can get a further payment of £30 for late payment.
If the network tells you that you’re not eligible for compensation, and you disagree, you should complain directly to it. Use its complaints procedure, which will be on its website.
If you’re not satisfied with the response to your complaint, you can complain to the energy ombudsman.
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