How to complain about your provider.

Here’s how to make a complaint about a provider that is signed up to our scheme.

Your guide to the complaints process.

1 You notice an issue or problem with your provider.

If something goes wrong, you should contact your provider straight away to give them a chance to put things right. Do this as soon as you notice the issue.

Your provider's phone number and website will be on your bill. You can make a complaint by email, in writing or on the phone.

2 Log the complaint with your provider.

If it's a simple complaint, you might be able to resolve it with a phone call. However, if it can’t be easily resolved, you should make sure you log a formal complaint with them, rather than just talking to them about your problem.

Your provider will have their own complaints procedure, but you should start by explaining what the problem is and what you want them to do about it. They’ll be able to advise you on the next steps.

3 Supply evidence for your complaint.

We recommend that you write down the time and date of your calls, the names of the people you speak to and the details of what was said. You may need to refer to them if you escalate the case to us.

If it's a complex problem, then it's a good idea to send a follow-up email or letter, so that you have a record of all the communication. This means there's no room for confusion.

Your provider may ask for more information to help them understand and resolve the problem. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what they need to make sure they can process it as quickly as possible.

4 Allow your provider enough time to investigate.

Your provider has six to eight weeks - depending on which one you use - to resolve your complaint. This is to give them enough time to assess the situation and the evidence to find an appropriate resolution.

During that time, they could contact you for more information. You can also contact them to see where your complaint is up to. In fact, we’d recommend you get in touch if you haven't heard anything after four weeks, just to check your complaint has been received or is being processed.

Your provider might reach a decision on your complaint at any time prior to the eight weeks. If they do, they'll send you a 'deadlock letter'. This normally contains a final offer and our details. At this point you’ll need to decide if you think their response is reasonable and will solve your problem. If it isn’t, you can contact us.

5 Escalating the complaint to us.

If you’ve received a deadlock letter, or if you’ve still not resolved the issue after eight weeks, you can bring your complaint to us.

When you’re ready to start your complaint you’ll be asked to share details of your problem, evidence and some personal information, which we’ll use to assess the situation. It's important to give us as much information as possible, so we don't have to keep coming back to you.

When it comes to the evidence we’ll ask you to provide things like:

  • Dates you first noticed the issue and complained to the company.
  • Any copies of correspondence or details of phone calls. Such as dates, times and names of the members of staff you spoke to.
  • Any other evidence that demonstrates the issue.

We won’t be able to process the case without this.

6 Supply evidence for your complaint.

When we’ve processed your complaint, we’ll pass the details to your provider. We sometimes find that after we’ve presented your case, the provider will acknowledge that it’s let a customer down and will make an offer of resolution. If you are happy to a accept, it can lead to an early resolution.

You will receive a notification when the provider makes an offer. You can also login to our portal to see where everything is up to at any time.

7 There’ll be a full assessment of the situation.

If the complaint remains unresolved we’ll carry out a full assessment of the case. We base our decisions on what is fair and reasonable, taking into account:

  • Both sides of the story.
  • Relevant regulation.
  • The law.
  • What is accepted as good industry practice.

Assessments can take a long time, and some complex matters can take longer than average cases. You can speed up the process by making sure you give us all the details and evidence as soon as possible.

8 If you accept the resolution, the provider has to comply.

Your provider is bound to the resolution if you choose to accept it. We have a specialist team on hand that works alongside providers to get the remedy implemented.

If your supplier hasn’t complied within reasonable time and you’ve chased them on the matter, you are free to enforce the resolution in court as the decision was legally binding.

Common questions about complaining.

What does the Ombudsman do?

We resolve disputes between consumers or small businesses and providers that are signed up to our scheme. We are here to give independent and impartial decisions on complaints.

We help to get things resolved as quickly as possible. This may be by facilitating a resolution with your provider, or by making a decision based on the information and evidence you submit.

Will you help me build my case?

We're impartial, so it's not our job to build your case. However, we encourage you to provide as much information as soon as possible, as this will help us to reach a fair decision quickly.

What type of complaints do you handle?

We review and resolve complaints about all sorts of things, such as: billing, customer service, installations/delays, switching providers, loss of service and sales.

Find out more about the types of problems Ombudsman Services can look at.

How much does it cost?

We are free for consumers.

How are you funded?

We are funded by the providers signed up to our scheme. Providers pay us a fee for each case we review. They pay this fee regardless of the outcome or decision we make. This means that the more complaints suppliers resolve in-house, the less they have to pay to us, which is an incentive to improve their customer service.

Find out more about how we’re funded.

Who regulates Ombudsman Services?

We are approved by authorities in each relevant sector, who make sure we meet required regulations.

Find out more about how we’re regulated.

Who can you accept complaints from?

We can process complaints for both domestic and small business consumers.

What qualifies you as a domestic or business consumer depends on which sector you’re referring to.

For the communications sector:

  • A domestic customer is a person who has communication services provided to their home.
  • A small business customer is a company which employs 10 people or less.

For the energy sector:

  • A domestic customer is a person who has energy provided to their home.
  • A small business customer meeting the below criteria:

‘A company which has an annual consumption of electricity of not more than 100,000 kWh, or gas consumption of not more than 293,000 kWh; or fewer than 10 employees (or their full-time equivalent), and an annual turnover or annual balance sheet total not exceeding €2 million.’

Please be aware the usage thresholds are specific to the fuel being complained about.

What is a deadlock letter?

If your provider can’t do anything else to assist with your complaint, you may receive a letter or email from them stating this. This is called a ‘deadlock letter’. The letter will tell you that you can now contact Ombudsman Services and will include our contact details. You must escalate your complaint within 12 months of receiving the letter.

What am I likely to get if I complain?

If we decide the supplier has made a mistake, or treated you unfairly, we’ll recommend which action they should take to put its mistakes right. This could include:

  • A practical action. (For example: apply a credit, cancel an account, apply a specified tariff.)
  • An apology.
  • A financial award to acknowledge the difficulties encountered.
  • Recommendations for the company to prevent the issue happening again.
  • Or, a combination of these.

Find out more about complaint outcomes.

Do I have to accept your decision?

You can appeal our decision but only if a mistake has been made, or you have new information for us to take into account (with a clear reason why this was not submitted earlier). We’ll always try to decide on a fair outcome, but if you’re still not happy you can reject our final decision. Then you’ll be free to resolve your complaint by other methods, such as through the civil courts.

How do you make sure providers carry out your recommendations about service improvements?

We work closely with companies to provide one-to-one support to help improve the way their services are delivered, and their complaints are handled.

Understanding your rights

There are some services you can contact if you want advice at any point during your complaint.

Your consumer rights

About us

We review disputes between providers and their customers, to try and put consumers back into the position that they were in before the issue occurred.

About us

Ready to start your complaint?

Make sure you have all the complaint details and evidence ready before you start your complaint.

Start complaint