“I’m blind and my energy supplier didn’t cater for my needs”

Ombudsman Services | Last updated Mar 31, 2021

We have included this case study because we recognise that some consumers need a little more support than others.

The complaint

  • Mrs A arranged for her energy supplier to install a smart meter.

  • Mrs A is blind and therefore asked for a talking in-home display – the supplier agreed.

  • However, when the engineer visited Mrs A to fit the smart meter, he did not have a talking display unit.

  • Mrs A called the supplier and was told a talking in-home display would be posted to her, but it never arrived so Mrs A complained to the supplier.

  • The supplier initially said that they would send an engineer to Mrs A’s home to deliver the display unit.

  • On the day of the installation, the appointment was cancelled.

  • The supplier explained to Mrs A that they did not have any engineers in the part of the country where Mrs A lived who could install the unit.

What the company said

  • The supplier explained to us that it was trialling talking in-home display units in a few parts of the country.

  • It said that the display units had to be installed by an engineer and it could not just post a unit to Mrs A.

  • It said it would probably be able to send a display unit to Mrs A, but couldn’t say when.

Our investigation

  • We were concerned that Mrs A couldn’t monitor her energy usage in the way that people without visual impairments could.

  • A charity that works with blind people told us it had done a lot of work with energy suppliers to ensure talking in-home display units were available to consumers.

  • We found out that devices had been available for over a year and could be purchased by any supplier.

  • We also identified that while it might be better for the display to be installed by an engineer, this wasn’t essential and due to Covid restrictions might not be practical.

Our decision

  • We decided that Mrs A had been treated unfairly – suppliers have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure all customers can access services and Mrs A’s request for a talking display unit was reasonable.

  • We required the supplier to send a talking in-home display. In addition, we required the supplier to make a goodwill payment to Mrs A to recognise the inconvenience and poor service.