Our approach to complaints involving Covid-19: February 2021 update
In view of the ongoing national lockdown, we have updated our approach to complaints affected by Covid-19. This replaces our July 2020 guidance, which can be read here for context.
- We expect suppliers to carry out emergency visits as normal, while respecting social distancing guidelines. Essential and emergency work includes situations where an engineer needs to attend a consumer’s property to address a loss of supply or safety issues with a meter.
- We understand that suppliers might be unable to carry out non-urgent site visits due to regional restrictions. Where a non-urgent site visit is needed, we expect suppliers to work within the relevant regional guidelines and manage the consumer’s expectations accordingly.
- Where non-urgent visits are permitted, some suppliers are continuing to offer appointments to ensure a backlog is not created and to resolve issues. Whilst others have decided not to carry out these types of appointments given safety concerns and lack of appetite from consumers. We consider it appropriate for suppliers to decide whether such visits should go ahead. We will not criticise suppliers if they decide not to offer non-urgent visits during the lockdown period.
- Where non-urgent visits are permitted, we think it’s appropriate for suppliers to decide whether such visits should go ahead. We will not criticise suppliers if they decide not to offer non-urgent visits during the lockdown period.
- Where a non-urgent site visit is needed but can’t go ahead, we expect suppliers to work with consumer remotely – where it is safe to do so – to see if a solution can be reached without a visit. We will adopt the same approach when considering complaints that reach us.
- Where non-urgent visits can’t go ahead and a solution can’t be reached remotely, we expect suppliers to explain why a visit can’t take place, when this situation might change and what the consumer needs to do – i.e. should the consumer contact the supplier again when restrictions change or will the supplier be back in touch to reschedule a visit?
Our approach and advice for suppliers
- For complaints that have already been escalated to us, we will continue to require site visits as part of a remedy if a site visit is unavoidable.
- We will, however, explain to the consumer that there may be a delay and refer to the relevant regional guidelines/stance of the individual supplier and the likelihood that a remedy extension will be needed.
- Suppliers should confirm their individual position on site visits in the case file and request a remedy extension if they are unable to fulfil an appointment due to Covid-19.
- Our approach is the same as in our July 2020 guidance – we will continue to consider Guaranteed Standards in the same way we did before the pandemic.
- It is, however, possible that a supplier can demonstrate exceptional circumstances relating to Covid-19 if localised issues have affected their ability to complete required actions.
- Our position is the same as in our July 2020 guidance – we expect consumers to be able to contact suppliers.
- Suppliers should be able to resolve problems encountered, though we accept it may take some suppliers longer than usual to handle queries and complaints due to disruption and reduced staffing levels.
Complaints where the consumer has been financially affected by Covid-19
- As of February 2021, the industry-wide expectations for suppliers to offer extra support for consumers around debt and affordability are still in place.
- Our position remains the same as outlined in our July 2020 guidance – we expect suppliers to ensure all additional measures are considered at a time when we expect more consumers to have financial problems.