Households miss out on £5.1million in compensation for energy outages – here's how to claim
HOUSEHOLDS have missed out on millions of pounds in compensation over the past few years for power cuts and poor service.
According to Citizens Advice, network providers – the firms which run the energy infrastructure rather than suppliers – have failed to make these payments.
The charity found 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.
Energy network operators are required to meet 39 guaranteed standards of service set by regulator Ofgem, including how they respond to emergencies, their complaints procedures, and the speed of reconnection after bad weather.
But Citizens Advice says networks are failing to meet these standards.
How to claim compensation for power cuts
BELOW are some tips from Citizens Advice on how you can claim compensation from your energy network.
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.
It 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."
Ofgem says it is considering the introduction of automatic compensation from 2021.
A spokesperson said: "We are considering proposals which would mean that payments would be automatically paid to affected gas customers from April 2021.
"But in the meantime we encourage all affected customers to contact their network company to claim the compensation they are entitled to."
David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association, added: "The energy networks have a very strong track record in delivering a great service for the British public.
"They take many steps to ensure all customers due payments are identified and where payments cannot be made directly to those affected, the companies do not keep this money, it is shared with all consumers through lower bills.
"The networks have been working with the regulator, Ofgem, and with Citizens Advice to take steps to address any issues, by making sure that people are aware and able to claim when necessary."
As of yesterday, energy firms will pay you up to £300 in compensation if switching goes wrong.
But brits are overspending on their energy bills by £2billion a year by failing to switch suppliers.
Meanwhile, network giants have given shareholders a £13.4billion bonanza over the past five years.
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