First GB–wide independent heat customer protection scheme goes live

25 November 2015

From today, over 15,000 heat customers are benefitting from free independent complaint resolution and minimum customer service standards.

This is through the launch of Heat Trust, a new industry-led customer protection scheme that sets standards in key areas including performance, reliability and customer service. The Energy Ombudsman will provide the independent complaints handling service to ensure fair treatment of customers.
Launched at Heat Conference, Heat Trust announced that E.ON, SSE Heat Networks and Metropolitan King’s Cross have become its first members.

Bindi Patel, Head of Scheme said:

“I am delighted to welcome E.ON, SSE and Metropolitan King’s Cross as the first members of Heat Trust. The launch of Heat Trust is a key milestone for the district heating sector, demonstrating its commitment to giving customers peace of mind in their heating and hot water supply.
I look forward to working with industry, government and consumer bodies to ensure Heat Trust provides effective protection to as many customers as possible.”

Lord Bourne, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, welcomed the launch of Heat Trust:

“My priorities are keeping energy bills as low as possible for hard working families and businesses and ensuring everyone has access to reliable and low carbon energy.
Heat networks play an important role in these priorities but they need to do so in a way that focuses on consumers, I am therefore happy to support the launch of the Heat Trust as the UK’s first independent consumer protection scheme for heat networks.”

Heat Trust provides protections to customers across Great Britain. The Scottish Government Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said:

“The Scottish Government believes that development of a sustainable renewable heat industry will be a key factor in helping Scotland meet its climate change targets and provides huge business opportunities. The launch of the independent Heat Trust is a positive step forward for the protection of householders and micro businesses connected to heat networks.

“Earlier this year, the Scottish Government published its Heat Policy Statement which sets out our framework for a resilient heat system. We are committed to a largely decarbonised heat system by 2050 which will require action by householders, business, industry, the public sector and communities across Scotland.”

Customers that live on heat networks registered to the Scheme will be able to refer a complaint they may have with their supplier to Ombudsman Services: Energy for investigation. Speaking at the launch of Heat Trust, Simon Morris, Deputy Chief Executive of the Ombudsman Services said:

“We are delighted that Heat Trust has recognised the value and quality of independent redress and are proud to be providing the dispute resolution service for them. As of today, energy customers that use a heat network registered to the scheme have the extra reassurance that they will be protected if things don’t go to plan with their energy supply.

“As the value of customer service becomes increasingly important for both consumers and businesses, providing dispute resolution which is independent, free to the consumer, and at low cost to the industry, is an example of best practice.”

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How long do I have to complain?

If you are unhappy with the way in which your complaint has been dealt with by you supplier you can refer your complaint to the Ombudsman, within 12 months of the date you first gave notice to your supplier of your complaint.

A Deadlock letter is written communication from your supplier setting out their final position on a Complaint.

If you have not been issued with a Deadlock Letter within 8 weeks of initially registering your complaint with your supplier, you can refer your complaint to the Ombudsman. Referrals to the Ombudsman should be made within 12 months of the date you first gave notice to your supplier of your complaint.

The Ombudsman has discretion, however, to accept a complaint made outside of these time limits if satisfied that there are exceptional reasons to justify the delay.

How do I complain to the Ombudsman?

To complain to the Ombudsman you must contact them directly

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 0330 440 1624
Fax: 0330 440 1625
Textphone: 0330 440 1600

Website : www.ombudsman-services.org/complain-now-energy.html

Ombudsman Services: Energy
PO Box 966
Warrington
WA4 9DF

You will be asked to provide details of your complaint and they will determine whether or not your complaint is ready to be investigated.

What complaints can be investigated by the Ombudsman?

The Ombudsman has the power to investigate complaints where the supplier has

  • failed to comply with their obligations under Heat Trust for example billing errors;
  • treated you unfairly in relation to other customers in similar circumstances;
  • been discourteous or unprofessional towards you;
  • unreasonably delayed or failed to take action in its dealings with you;
  • given you wrong or misleading information.

In order to be eligible to bring a complaint against a supplier you must have been, at the time the subject matter of the Complaint arose

  • a heat customer with a valid and effective supply agreement with the supplier,
  • connected to the Heat Network of the supplier (or would have been so but for an act or omission of the supplier)

For further information please review the Ombudsman Terms of Reference available here

What complaints cannot be investigated by the Ombudsman?

The Ombudsman will not investigate complaints which relate to

  • commercial decisions made by an energy company about whether to provide a product or service or the terms under which they may be provided. For example, the Ombudsman cannot help with price increases;
  • issues which are considered to be malicious or unjustified;
  • problems that are being dealt with by the courts;
  • historic problems which are outside of the Ombudsman time limits. These include complaints about matters which you were aware of before the date when you supplier joined Heat Trust.

For further information please review the Ombudsman Terms of Reference available here

How much does it cost?

You will not be charged for this service. All costs will be recovered from your supplier.

How long will it take to come to a conclusion?

Some cases are complex and the investigation may be lengthy, whilst others are simple and are dealt with quickly. As a guide, the average complaint takes about 6 to 8 weeks to be resolved.

Can someone else complain on my behalf?

Yes. Someone else can complain as long you send written authorisation to the Ombudsman. Anyone may act on your behalf, for example it may be a member of your family, a friend, a solicitor or a volunteer from a body like the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Where a representative is nominated the Ombudsman will communicate with the representative as if they were they were you.

What happens when the Ombudsman makes his decision?

The Ombudsman will make a decision he believes to be just and fair, taking all the circumstances into consideration. The Ombudsman will then write to all parties concerned with their decision and any award/remedy. The Ombudsman will explain their reasons for making the decision and set out timescales within which a remedy/award is due.

Once you accept the Ombudsman’s decision it will become binding on your supplier. If you do not reply to the decision within the specified period or choose not to accept the Ombudsman’s decision then the decision will not be binding on your supplier.

For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Scheme shall limit your right to take proceedings against you supplier in the courts of England and Wales, should the Ombudsman’s Decision not be binding on the supplier.

Remedies and awards

If it is determined that your supplier has made a mistake or treated you unfairly, a remedy or award will be made. The award or remedy will seek to put you to the position you would have been in had the mistake not occurred.

Ombudsman Services may undertake one or more of the following resolutions

  1. an apology;
  2. an explanation of what went wrong;
  3. a practical action to correct the problem; or
  4. a financial award of up to £10,000 (inclusive of VAT).

No award or remedy will be made against you.

Can an appeal be made against the Ombudsman’s decision?

The Ombudsman will always try to achieve a resolution which is acceptable to both sides, taking account of all available evidence. If after a resolution is proposed either party feels that there is an error in fact or has new evidence which was not previously available it may be submitted to the Ombudsman for review. The Ombudsman will then check to see if the outcome is affected by this new information. A final binding decision will then be issued.

Ombudsman Contact Details

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 0330 440 1624
Fax: 0330 440 1625
Textphone: 0330 440 1600

Website : www.ombudsman-services.org/complain-now-energy.html

Ombudsman Services: Energy
PO Box 966
Warrington
WA4 9DF

When things go wrong with your heat supply your first line of action should be to raise it with your supplier. If your problem cannot be resolved after speaking directly with your heat supplier, those heat customers whose schemes are registered with Heat Trust have access to a specialist independent complaint handling service, operated by the Energy Ombudsman. To find out if your site is registered with Heat Trust, click here.

For further information on the Energy Ombudsman click here.

PLEASE NOTE: Disputes between customers and their heat suppliers will not be dealt with directly by Heat Trust. Heat Trust is unable to investigate complaints or make enquiries on behalf of individuals and will only be able to refer you to the information that is set out in the Scheme.

Heat Trust makes provision for an independent dispute resolution service. This service is free to customers and investigates complaints within the Heat Trust remit. The service operates under the Energy Ombudsman.

Heat Trust New Icons 02

Top tips
  • Keep a record of all contact you have regarding your complaint, including dates, and preferably who it was you were in contact with.
  • It helps to know what you would like as an outcome of your complaint e.g. a change in service/ supply, an apology, financial compensation.

 

How to make a complaint

If you have an unresolved problem with your heat supplier, Heat Trust's independent disputes resolution service operated by the Energy Ombudsman may be able to help.

Step 1) Talk to your heat supplier first. You must give your supplier the opportunity to resolve the problem.

If the complaint is not resolved....

Step 2) Check the date. Complaints can be made to the Ombudsman from eight weeks up to 12 months after the complaint was made to the heat supplier. Watch this helpful video, which explains more: The Complaints Process | Ombudsman Services (turn the sound on)

The service is free of charge to customers.

Step 3) Check your eligibility. The Ombudsman can look into complaints about unfair, discourteous, or unprofessional treatment or untimely management of a problem, misleading information and failure of the supplier to comply with their obligations under Heat Trust's requirements. To see your heat supplier’s obligations under Our Standards click here.

Step 4) Submit the online complaint form available at www.ombudsman-services.org/complain-now. To make a complaint online you will need the name of your heat supplier, if you're unsure then check your bill. The Ombudsman will ask for some details about you, the date that you first complained, actions taken by you and the heat supplier and how you would like the complaint resolved. 

 It can take between 6 and 8 weeks for the Ombudsman to make a decision

Step 5) The Ombudsman makes a decision. The Ombudsman will take all the circumstances into consideration to make a fair and just decision.

Step 6) Action is taken. The Ombudsman can ask your supplier to apologise, provide an explanation, take action to correct the problem or present you with a financial award up to £10,000.

See our 'How to make a complaint' factsheet.

 

Ombudsman Fees

Customers can refer their complaint to the Ombudsman for free. All case fees for complaints that are sent to the Ombudsman are borne by the heat supplier (Registered Participant). Case fees vary depending on how quickly the Ombudsman resolves the complaint.

Heat Trust Application Process 1

Please note that DECC have suspended the requirement for cost effectiveness tests for individual metering and removed the Heat Metering Viability Tool. DECC have posted the following notice on the webpage that hosts the heat networks metering guidance and regulations (Heat Networks Metering and Billing: compliance and guidance - Detailed guidance - GOV.UK):

“The European Commission is developing guidance on the application of cost effectiveness tests for heat metering, under the Energy Efficiency Directive. This means that the earlier DECC cost effectiveness tool will need to be revised. In most properties, the tool had indicated that individual heat meters will not be cost-effective. Therefore, pending the revision of the tool we are advising that no further assessments should be undertaken. Any assessments which are undertaken following this announcement using the current tool may need to be redone once the revised tool has been introduced. The requirement to install heat meters to measure final consumption of heat from a heat network in buildings occupied by one final customer will not be enforced by the National Measurement and Regulation Office pending revision of the tool. The remaining requirements in the regulations are unaffected (for example in relation to building-level meters and newly constructed buildings connected to a district heating network and those buildings on district heating networks that undergo a major renovation). The remaining notification requirements still apply."