Response to open letter on Utilities ADR’s application for certification as an ADR provider
We are strongly supportive of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes as a way for consumers to get resolutions to complaints simply and easily. For many consumers they are the only accessible recourse available to resolve complaints, although consumers in vulnerable circumstances can also get help from the Extra Help Unit (EHU).
In 2016 we set out that advice and redress in the energy sector should:
be easier to navigate, so consumers are not ‘stranded’ without support, and get the right support, advice or redress action that they need, first time;
improve customer experience, so companies can learn the lessons from queries and complaints to improve the way they work and reduce complaints;
be transparent and accountable, so Ofgem and government know how and where money is being spent to support consumers; and
be fit for the future, so advice and redress schemes are prepared and able to support consumers in more complex future energy markets.
We do not support the entry of a new ADR provider in the energy sector as we do not think this will help achieve these aims.
Our research has shown that some of the major barriers consumers face when complaining are that they don’t know how to complain and that the process is too complex. Awareness of ADR schemes is also poor, and their role is not well understood by consumers. We are concerned that adding a second ADR scheme in energy will worsen these barriers to consumers, as having multiple redress schemes in a single sector is likely to lead to consumers being more confused about their rights and who to complain to.