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Dealing With Bad Service in the Utilities Sector

By: Sam Harrington-Lowe - Updated: 1 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
Complaints Utility Suppliers Complaints

Despite the regulatory bodies keeping an eye on your utility suppliers there is always a chance that the service could fail to meet with your expectations.

Perhaps the cost is higher than you expected, or the billing confusing. Maybe they are overcharging you or the supply is faulty. You might have a customer service complaint!

There are various ways of resolving your issues, but one of the best ways to prevent problems is to get off to a good start.

Take Care of Your Bills

When you have several suppliers sending you paper bills it's easy to open them and stick them on the shelf. Maybe even pay them without really looking at them, or perhaps you have standing orders or direct debits. Whatever your billing preferences, make sure you read your bills.

Check that the meter readings tally, and if they don't or they've been estimated, call the company supplying and give them a reading on the phone. Check also that your tariffs are what you agreed to. Keep your bills filed neatly so you can refer to them easily - this will definitely help if you have a query later on.

Also, ensure that when you sign up for a service, you have checked that it is the right service for you. If you choose unwisely, and then are unhappy but the supplier has done nothing wrong, you will have to see out the term of your agreement or contract, so get it right the first time!

If Something is Wrong

Your first port of call will be the supplier themselves. It can be frustrating when ringing call centres, and long queues followed by less than perfect customer service can be trying. Keep calm when making a complaint and take a note of the time and date and the operative's name for any future reference. Always have your details ready when you call such as your account number and reference, and give as much information as you can about your query.

If you cannot resolve your concerns this way and you are still not happy, you should end the conversation calmly and move on to the next stage in the complaints procedure.

Complaints Procedures

With all utilities suppliers there will generally be a code of practice and a complaints procedure. Perhaps a form to complete or a requirement for you to put your complaint in writing. This goes for any supplier - gas, electricity, phone or internet service provider. So start with this and follow it to the letter. If any grievances come to legal action down the line you will need to ensure you have followed the right course of action.

Gas and Electricity

If you still don't get the response you want by following their complaints procedure, you can contact Energywatch, the watchdog set up to monitor gas and electricity suppliers. Energywatch can advise you, have details of the best services and rates available, and can act as a voice for the consumer in complaints procedures.

Telephone Queries

You may find that you have a query with your bill or perhaps your handset is faulty. Most mobile phone companies have frustratingly huge call centres and outsourcing to other countries can often mean communication is difficult. Ironic for telecommunications companies. But stay calm, work through the query with the customer services team and if you can't resolve it, ask about the complaints procedure.

If this does not ultimately produce the results you want then the regulatory body for telephone issues is Oftel www.oftel.gov.uk

Water Rates

The same goes for your water supplies who are regulated by Ofwat. Ofwat is your final port of call though, and prior to that you should have been through the call and complaints procedures. If you are not happy with the results of your complaint, you should then contact the Consumer Council for Water who have representatives and offices all over the country. This body exists purely to support water and sewerage consumers.

Summing Up

The line of procedure should be that you talk directly to your supplier first. If you don't get a satisfactory solution this way, ask them about their complaints procedure. And finally, if this does not bring about the solution you need, go to the relevant watchdog. Keep notes of all conversations and get full names if possible. Never get angry or personal, and if possible, follow up telephone calls in writing. Other bodies you could talk to for support include Consumer Direct or Citizen's Advice Bureau.

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