Poor service from energy suppliers leaves nearly a million older people suffering in silence
Close to a million older people are not complaining when they get poor service from their energy supplier, according to Ombudsman Services and Age UK.
- A third of those in later life simply ‘don’t want to make a fuss’.
- Nearly half of all pensioners surveyed are in the dark when it comes to knowing their consumer rights.
- A new ‘Know Your Energy Rights’ guide launched
- Close to a million1 older people suffering in silence about the poor service from energy supplier.
Research by Ombudsman Services: Energy, which handles unresolved complaints about energy companies, suggests that those aged 65 and over either don’t like making a fuss (32%) or worry that they will feel intimidated if they do complain (9%), meaning that Ombudsman Services: Energy is only seeing the tip of the iceberg of complaints.
According to the data, those aged 65 and over are most likely to have a complaint about energy provision but they are least likely to complain about service and billing when standards slip to unacceptable levels2.
Disputed charges, inaccurate invoices and backdated billing issues were the main complaint amongst over 65’s
Many of those who do complain say they find the process challenging with many finding they have to complain several times before action is taken.
Older people are left confused about their consumer rights, nearly half are unsure of or do not know what their consumer rights are, with many unable to determine when they have the grounds to make a complaint and how to ensure they do not suffer from unfair treatment when they do so.
Pensioners are also concerned that their age may be holding them back, with a third put off complaining because they’re worried that they won’t be taken seriously because of their age.
Lewis Shand Smith, Chief Ombudsman commenting on the findings, said:
“Compared to the general population, those in later life are likely to rely more heavily on their energy provision so it’s worrying that so few take a complaint further when they have one. It’s concerning that nearly a million older people in the UK prefer to grin and bear it when they have a problem with their energy because they don’t want to make a fuss or feel intimidated. It’s also worrying that so few know their consumer rights, which could leave many vulnerable.
“Those in later life are often on a fixed income and are living on a strict budget, so it’s important that they are in control of their bills and know where there is free help available if things go wrong. This is why we’ve created a ‘Know Your Energy Rights’ guide, that provides advice to make older people savvy complainers.”
Mervyn Kohler, Age UK’s External Affairs Adviser said:
“The energy sector has not covered itself in glory for treating customers’ fairly in recent years. Yet the process of making a complaint, and getting help to resolve that complaint, is getting easier. We’re all urged to be savvy shoppers, and we all must demand good service as customers.
“Know Your Energy Rights, from Ombudsman Services, is welcomed by Age UK. The key point is to keep meticulous records of every phone call, letter or email; whom you spoke to, and what action was promised. The energy company has eight weeks to resolve the issue, after which Ombudsman Services can intervene – at no cost to the complainant. It is an important service which all older people should be telling their friends all about.”
To ensure those in later life know how to access help and address any problems, Ombudsman Services – which runs a free online service for consumer complaints (www.consumer-ombudsman.org) – is today releasing its ‘Know Your Energy Rights’ guide containing tips and advice as well as a comprehensive directory of who to contact for help.
The guide is available to download by clicking on the image below (pdf [icon type=”file-text”])
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