If you've been mis-sold an energy contract or been majorly out of pocket due to an incorrect energy bill, you may be able to get £100s back.
Energy company mis-selling has been rife. Now it's time those out of pocket got their cash back. This full step-by-step guide includes free template letters to get your money back, and possibly compensation on top.
In this guide
Energy companies rack up profits faster than Lewis Hamilton's final Silverstone lap, but their customer service often falls short. If an energy company treats you unfairly, whether it's mis-selling or mis-billing, you have rights.
You could also get compensation on top of missed savings. The average payout is £135 if successful, but up to £5,000 can be awarded by the independent Energy Ombudsman.
First, complain to your supplier. If you don't get any joy after eight weeks, take your complaint to the Ombudsman. Here are a few success stories (the first is from a member of the MSE team).
I got £200 back for a wrong transfer
I received a letter from my gas supplier EDF to say it was "sorry I was leaving them", but I hadn't applied to switch. I rang EDF immediately, but it was too late and the switch was already being processed.
After two months of an EDF 'investigation', it transpired I had been billed for my neighbour's gas as there was only one meter between us.
When a new family moved in downstairs and tried to switch to Scottish & Southern, they applied online. As my name was on the account, a letter was sent to me regarding the switch.
EDF ended up refunding me £212.32 as a gesture of goodwill for all the hassle (my electricity bill for the last seven months).
I got £250 back for mis-selling
A salesman told me I would be able to save by taking a dual fuel tariff. 12 months later, I realised my direct debit had increased by £60 per month and I was locked into the tariff due to exit fees. After declining a £175 goodwill payment from the supplier, I went to the Ombudsman who decided the energy company failed to provide accurate information and mis-sold me. As well as not having to pay the exit fees, the Ombudsman awarded £250.
£150 back after ending up in debt
I switched to Npower via a door-to-door salesman, who claimed I could save. The direct debit was too low and we ended up £500 in debt. Following MSE's guide, I complained to Npower. It offered £150.
How far back can you go?
The Energy Ombudsman is able to look at complaints within nine months of when you first noticed the problem.
If your supplier made a mistake 10 years ago, you won't be able to claim back now. However, if you've only now looked back at your bill, from, say two years ago, and realised there's been an error, the Ombudsman may be able to look at your complaint.
Never switch at the doorstep or on the phone
The big six energy firms have ceased doorstep selling. But if you're approached, don't switch on the doorstep or listen to energy sales pitches. Use a comparison site to find the cheapest deal across the market. Switching cuts many people's costs by £200+ over the year, plus special links get up to £30 cashback or a crate of wine on top. See Cheap Gas & Electricity.
To deter unwanted sales representatives, print our Trading Standards-approved 'no cold callers' sign. If energy sellers don't obey, you can report them.
Ofgem is forcing Scottish Power to pay £8.5 million to 190,000 customers after investigators found the supplier's doorstep and telesales agents mis-sold energy tariffs.
Officials found that between Oct 2009 and Jan 2012, sales staff gave people inaccurate comparisons with their current supplier, as well as wrong estimates of annual charges. Ofgem also ruled that Scottish Power failed to adequately monitor or train its sales staff.
If you signed up to receive gas or electricity, or both, from a Scottish Power doorstep or telesales agent between October 2009 and January 2012, you may have been given incorrect information and could be due a payout. See the full Scottish Power mis-selling MSE news story.
Ofgem fined Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) £10.5 million in April after finding that between October 2009 and September 2012, it misled some customers into switching to the firm by telling them they would save money. In reality, they were put onto more expensive tariffs (see the full SSE mis-selling news story).
Under the Sales Guarantee scheme, anyone who signed up to SSE (including Scottish Hydro, Southern Electric, Swalec and Atlantic) or M&S Energy via a salesperson between October 2009 and September 2012 should receive a letter informing them they may be eligible for a refund if their case resulted in any financial loss.
If you think you've been affected by SSE mis-selling and haven't got a letter, call 0800 975 3341.
Have you been mis-sold or mis-billed?
The energy mis-selling checklist
If any of the below happened to you, you may have been a victim of mis-selling.
Before we start, remember one thing. Switching energy is usually the best MoneySaving thing to do, but not via a doorstep sales rep. Read the Cheap Gas & Elec guide for full details on how to find the best deal yourself.
Did they switch you without your permission?
Did the salesperson ask you to sign something, saying it was the only way to give you a quote? Or were you told you were just signing to prove he or she had knocked on the door, and then you found yourself switched without further consent?
This is known as slamming. If it happens, both your existing supplier and new supplier have a joint responsibility to sort it out. You shouldn't have to pay anything to the new supplier.
If they've forged your signature, it's a criminal offence. You'll get compensation if it's proven.
What the rules say: Ofgem Licence Condition 25.5 c) ii says customers must understand they've entered into a contract.
Section 9 of the EnergySure code also states consumers must understand "they are entering into a contract to transfer their energy supply" and when customers are signing a contract, it must clearly have the word CONTRACT visible.
If they didn't understand they were switching supplier, it says they should cancel the contract and may be entitled to money back or compensation.
Did they lower the direct debit to make it seem cheaper?
Sales staff may ask you how much you currently pay for energy per month and simply set your direct debit at a lower amount to encourage you to switch. This doesn't mean you'll pay less for your energy overall.
Direct debits can be set at any amount, depending on how much energy your supplier thinks you'll use. All that happens with a low direct debit is you'll have to catch up later in the year.
If a salesman tells you you'll pay less and you end up paying more, this could be deemed as mis-selling by the Ombudsman.
What the rules say: Ofgem Licence Condition 25.1 a) states information given to the customer should be complete and accurate, and not mislead the customer.
Licence Condition 25.6 says if the sales rep tells you the new contract will be cheaper than what you pay now, he or she has to provide you with a comparison based on your current usage and costs. If that isn't possible, you should be given a best estimate.
Case studies from the Ombudsman suggest setting a low direct debit in order to get you to switch is viewed as misleading.
Did they say 'Martin Lewis recommends us' or 'Ofgem sent us'?
We've been inundated with reports that sales staff have quoted MSE or Martin to encourage switching. Some say Ofgem, the independent regulator, has sent them.
MSE would never single out one energy company and name it as cheapest for everyone. The cheapest provider depends on where you live and how much energy you use. We always suggest using comparison sites. Salesmen are not allowed to use these incorrect lines to get you to switch.
What the rules say: The law says a contract may be set aside for misrepresentation. So this means if you've been led into a contract due to a false statement of fact (not opinion), you may be entitled to cancel the contract and get possible damages as well. Whether the misrepresentation was negligent, deliberate or innocent doesn't matter.
Did you switch to Scottish Power via a sales rep in 2009-2012?
Anyone who switched to Scottish Power on the doorstep between October 2009 and January 2012 may be able to get compensation.
It's writing to 336,000 households who it believes may have been mis-sold to. Some of these customers may have since switched supplier. Once you've got a letter, either contact Scottish Power on 0800 074 0362 or fill in its online form.
If you didn't receive a letter and think you may have been mis-sold to, you can ask Scottish Power to review your case by calling it or using the same form.
Did you switch to Scottish & Southern Energy via a sales rep in 2009-2012?
Anyone who switched to Scottish & Southern Energy (including Scottish Hydro, Southern Electric, Swalec and Atlantic) on the doorstep between October 2009 and September 2012 may be able to get compensation.
It's writing to everyone it thinks may be due compensation. Anyone, whether they got a letter or not, can ring 0845 0707 388 to register their details. It says you must prove, from the details you supply, that you suffered financial loss.
You don't need to have got a letter from SSE, you just need to have switched within those dates and/or switched on the doorstep (you could have switched over the phone or in-store).
If you think you've been affected by SSE mis-selling and haven't received a letter, call 0800 975 3341.
Were you sold a fixed, capped or tracker tariff that wasn't explained?
A fixed tariff means you pay a set amount per unit of energy, regardless of whether prices increase or decrease. Capped tariffs promise not to go above a certain limit and tracker tariffs usually follow just above or below standard rates (which, in turn, are decided by the supplier).
Were you sold a fixed or capped tariff but it wasn't fully explained what it was or how it worked? Were you told that your prices wouldn't rise on a tracker tariff?
What the rules say: Ofgem's licence conditions state every energy supplier must provide information that is easily understood and doesn't mislead customers. Fixed and capped tariffs aren't straightforward and aren't suitable for everyone.
So if a sales rep hasn't properly explained how a fixed or capped tariff works, you may be able to get compensation.
Were you not told about cancellation fees?
Many energy tariffs now have cancellation fees if you leave it before the contract's due to end. These can be anything from £20-£50 per fuel.
Sales staff have a duty to tell you about these before you sign up for a new contract. If one hasn't done this, you may be due compensation.
What the rules say: Section 9.4 of the EnergySure code says sales agents must take all reasonable steps to ensure consumers know they can cancel or terminate the contract, including any charges or loss of benefits this may cause.
Did they not tell you how much you'd pay on the new tariff?
If you're signing up to a new contract, sales staff must provide an estimate of the cost of the new tariff there and then. In most cases you should also get a comparison against your existing tariff. If they're claiming you'll pay less, they must provide a comparison based on either info you provide, or their best estimate.
What the rules say: Ofgem's licence condition 25.6 a) says the representative must "provide, in writing or by means of electronic display, an estimate of the total annual charges for the supply of electricity".
Did they tell you about the cooling-off period and how to cancel?
When you sign up for a new energy tariff online, over the phone or at your doorstep, you must be given at least a seven-day cooling-off period, which means you can cancel within seven days. At the time you sign the contract, you must be given written notice of that cooling-off period. If they don't, the contract isn't enforceable.
What the rules say: The Doorstep Selling Regulations (which apply to any goods and services worth more than £35) say you have to be given written notice about your right to cancel the contract within the seven-day cooling-off period (some suppliers give more time). If it doesn't, the contract is not enforceable at any time and you may be able to get compensation.
Share your successes in the
Energy Mis-Selling Discussion
The energy mis-billing checklist
With such over-complicated energy tariffs, it's no surprise massive mistakes costing you £100s are made. Check the list to see if you may have been mis-billed.
Have you complained about a faulty meter?
If you've already complained to your supplier about a faulty meter and they've done nothing, you should have cause for redress. If you've received a big bill due to this, you may not have to pay all of it, though the supplier's allowed to base bills on an estimate in this case.
What the rules say: The Back Billing Code says the supplier can't bill you for more than 12 months' energy in certain circumstances where it has made a mistake.
Has your supplier mixed up your day and night rates?
Some tariffs, such as Economy 7, mean you get cheaper energy during off-peak night times. But suppliers have been known to mix up rates and charge night-time usage at the pricier day rate.
What the rules say: The Back Billing Code applies here, so you shouldn't be billed for the error for more than 12 months. It states the code applies when people are billed for meter mistakes, eg, night readings recorded as day readings and vice versa, and the supplier had the opportunity to recognise this but did not investigate further.
Have you given correct meter readings but still have a big bill?
If you've either given correct readings that your supplier has ignored, or it's not maintained regular meter readings, you may not have to pay back any arrears beyond 12 months.
What the rules say: Again, the Back Billing Code should apply here. It states when a customer provides correct readings but a supplier rejects them as invalid without investigation, they shouldn't be billed for energy used more than 12 months ago.
This list isn't exhaustive. If youve been treated unfairly in any way, follow the process.
Please report new scenarios in the Energy Mis-Selling Discussion
How to complain
Here's our step-by-step guide to getting your money back and compensation.
Step 1: You MUST complain to your supplier first
While you don't need substantial proof to get compensation, the more facts you have, the more likely it is your complaint will be resolved. Gather old bills, contracts, times of sales visits and salespeople's names. Even if you noted something down on the back of an envelope, this will strengthen your case.
Take all the info you have and draft a letter of complaint to your supplier. For less serious complaints, call your supplier and explain over the phone, but make sure you note down times, dates and who you spoke to.
Step 2: After 8 weeks, go to the free Energy Ombudsman
The Ombudsman Service is an independent, official body that settles disputes for the communications, energy, property and copyright licensing sectors. The service it provides is completely free.
It has legal power to adjudicate on individuals' complaints or complaints from small businesses. And there's no negative outcome, you cannot be awarded against. The worst that can happen is if the Ombudsman says you've no case.
If, after eight weeks, your supplier hasn't got back to you or you've reached a deadlock, you can take your complaint to the independent Energy Ombudsman if your supplier participates in the scheme (see the Energy Ombudsman for a list).
It'll review your case and decide on an appropriate course of action, often including an apology and a payment if there is sufficient evidence to support your side of the story.
You can complain to the Ombudsman over the phone, on its website or via the post. It will need to know:
The date you first complained.
What you and the firm have done about the problem.
What you want as a resolution to the problem.
If you are asking for an amount of money, what that's based on.
It's a fairly simple process and shouldn't take you long to complete. The Ombudsman will send a confirmation letter and will get back to you if it needs any more information.
Share your successes in the
Energy Mis-Selling Discussion