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Know your energy rights for winter with this free guide

It seems nearly 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 older people put up with poor service because they simply don’t want to make a fuss, and it seems most of us don’t have much of a clue about our consumer rights.

Ombudsman Services: Energy is the body that handles unresolved complaints about energy companies, and when they did a survey recently they found that not only too many of them hate making a fuss, but quite a lot also feel intimidated when they do complain.

Billing was the main complaint of our age group, usually relating to disputed charges, inaccurate invoices and backdated billing. Poor customer service and supply problems also factored heavily in the list of complaints.

Lewis Shand Smith, Chief Ombudsman commented on the results of the survey, saying: “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.”

To help resolve this situation, Ombudsman Services have issued a new “Know Your Energy Rights,” guide to give older people the information and advice they need to solve their energy complaints.

“The aim is to provide advice to make older people savvy complainers,” said Mr Shand Smith.

To download this free guide visit http://www.ombudsman-services.org/later-in-life.html.

The general advice is that those in later life who have a problem with a goods or service should follow the steps below in order to complain effectively:

  • Firstly identify what you want to achieve, have a clear idea of what it is you want to achieve from complaining.
  • Make notes beforehand so you remember everything you want to say.
  • Remember it’s your right to complain if you’re not satisfied.
  • Admit your part in the problem if you have any fault.
  • Address one complaint at a time, ensure what you say is clear and fair.
  • Keep records of all correspondence, including phone calls, paperwork, bills and receipts, if asked to send them anywhere make sure you send photocopies and keep originals.
  • If you’re not getting results complaining directly to the company, identify the person or organisation that has the power to make changes and help.
  • If your complaint has not been resolved quickly (normally within eight weeks), you can take your complaint to an organisation like Ombudsman Services.

Also it is worth remembering that Ombudsman Services’ www.consumer-ombudsman.org is open for any complaint outside financial services.

The guide has been welcomed by Age UK. 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.

“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.”

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