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Making a complaint about a creditor or energy supplier

Creditors and energy suppliers don’t set out to treat people unfairly, but sometimes things go wrong. If you feel a creditor, debt collector or energy supplier isn’t treating you fairly, let them know by making a complaint.

When it comes to energy bills, more than half of people in debt say they wouldn’t question an unexpected bill even though it might affect their health or push them further into debt*. If something doesn't look right, it's important that you make your concerns known as soon as possible. 

If you're making a complaint to a creditor, you might also find it useful to know what your creditors can do when you fall behind on your payments.

How can I make a complaint?

It doesn’t matter how you make your complaint, as your creditor or energy supplier should deal with it in the same way, whether it’s in writing, over the phone or in person.

We recommend making your complaint in writing, by letter or email. There are a couple of advantages to making a complaint this way:

  • It gives you time to think about what you want to say
  • You can keep a copy so you’ve got a record of what was said – this can be useful if you need to take the complaint further

If you post your complaint, it’s a good idea to use recorded mail. This costs a bit extra but allows you to check your letter was definitely received.

You could make your complaint in person or over the phone, but it would be more difficult to prove what was said afterwards. There’s also more risk of forgetting important facts or getting drawn into an argument if you make your complaint this way.

Worried about a bailiff or enforcement agent not treating you fairly or harassing you? Find out how to make complaints about bailiffs.

What should I write in my complaint?

Your letter or email should include the following:

  • Write the word ‘complaint’ at the top so it’s very clear that you want it be dealt with as a complaint
  • Explain what you feel your creditor or energy supplier has done wrong
  • Tell them what you think they should do to put this right
  • Ask for a copy of their complaints procedure in writing so you can see how they’ll deal with your complaint
  • Ask them to stop any further action while they’re investigating your complaint
  • Ask for their reply in writing

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Top tips for making your complaint effectively

  1. If you’re feeling upset, take some time to calm down or leave the complaint until later
  2. Keep copies of your complaint and any replies you get from your creditor or energy supplier – this could be important if you need to take things further
  3. Each time you speak to them, note down the date, what was said and who you spoke to. This can be very helpful if you need to take the complaint further
  4. Be realistic when telling your creditor or supplier how they can put things right
  5. You don’t need to quote laws and regulations in your complaint, and you don’t need to use obscure legal terms – keep your complaint simple and clear
  6. If you’re struggling to write your complaint ask a friend or family member to help. Talking about the problem can help and the other person might spot something you didn’t
  7. Complaints can take a little while to process, so try to give the supplier or creditor time to sort out the problem. If you feel that you’ve been forgotten about, try contacting them for a follow-up conversation. This might help to speed things up.

What happens after I’ve made a complaint?

Your creditor or energy supplier should confirm they’ve received your complaint, usually by letter or email. They should also explain how they’ll deal with your complaint and how long it’ll take.

Creditors usually put your account on hold while they’re looking into your complaint. Not all of them will do this – it depends on the type of debts and some may keep contacting you for payments. 

You should get a final reply from your creditor or supplier in due course, and most will aim to do this within eight weeks. If your complaint will take longer than normal to investigate the creditor or supplier should tell you.

Can you write a letter for me?

We can give you tips on making a complaint, but we can’t write a letter for you.

Some websites have example letters you can use to dispute debts or make complaints. These often look impressive, but a complaint doesn’t need to be written in complicated language or quote laws and regulations.

Your complaint should be about how you feel you’ve been treated. This always sounds better in your own words.

Do I need evidence?

Evidence can help to support your complaint and make it easier for your creditor or supplier to investigate.

If your creditor complaint relates to debt collector phone calls or visits to your home it’s a good idea to keep a list of the dates, times and names of callers.

If your complaint is about letters from creditors or emails, it can help to include copies of these.

Have you received an email from your energy supplier, or had a phone conversation with them, in reply to your complaint? Try to keep track of everything that may be useful as evidence later on, such as: 

  • A record of the date and time of any phone calls, who you spoke to and what was agreed 
  • Copies of the letters and emails that you send 
  • Copies of all your bills and other information from the supplier

Don’t worry if you have no evidence. Your creditor should still investigate, and they should have their own copies of any letters or emails and a record of any calls or visits.

Where do I go next if my complaint doesn’t work?

There are several organisations who can investigate your complaint further if your creditor hasn’t sorted things out.

  • Financial Ombudsman Service can investigate complaints about all debts which are regulated by the Consumer Credit Act – this includes most common debts, including personal loans, payday loans, credit and store cards, overdrafts, mortgages and insurance policies
  • CISAS or Ombudsman Services: Communications can investigate complaints about telephone or internet providers
  • Ombudsman Services: Energy can investigate complaint about gas and electric companies in England, Scotland and Wales. Or, if you live in Northern Ireland, The Consumer Council can investigate energy complaints

If your complaint is about a different creditor, for example a public service, local authority or government department, the Ombudsman Association can direct you to the right organisation to help.

These organisations can only help if you’ve made a complaint to your creditor and given them a chance to investigate and reply. In most cases, you’ll need to wait eight weeks before they can begin looking at your complaint.

Need help with debt?

If you need any help or advice on how to deal with your creditors we provide free, impartial and expert debt advice.

*Ombudsman Services’ research, September 2017