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Ofgem reviewed its earlier decision to claim back £20,000 after a mistake in paperwork by renewable heat supplier

Organisation: Ofgem

Date case closed: 12 September 2019

As well as investigating complaints about failings by public service organisations, we do a lot of work outside the investigation phase of our work. This case is an example of one of the many ways we can resolve a complaint and achieve a positive outcome for someone without having to launch a formal investigation.

When we first looked at the details of this complaint, it became apparent to us that there was a clear mistake, as well as an obvious way to put things right. We spoke to the organisation and explained our initial thoughts. Following this discussion, the organisation agreed to look at the complaint again, and ultimately agreed to settle in favour of the complainant. 

The complaint

Complainant K complained about Ofgem’s decision to seek repayment of Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive payments, amounting to nearly £20,000, after a paperwork error by the supplier of the equipment.

Background

In summer 2014, Complainant K sought to replace an old oil-fired boiler with a biomass wood pellet boiler, as part of the government’s Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (Domestic RHI).

The Domestic RHI is a government scheme to encourage the take up of renewable heat sources when replacing old boilers. People who join the scheme agree to follow a set of rules and then receive quarterly payments in return for the renewable heat their system has produced.

Complainant K’s new boiler was installed and commissioned in September 2014 by an approved supplier.

In 2018, Ofgem carried out an audit. Following this, Ofgem told Complainant K that the boiler model installed did not match the model on the paperwork, and the boiler was not approved under the Domestic RHI scheme at the time of installation.

Complainant K queried this with the supplier. The supplier realised that there had been errors on the original submission paperwork, including the date of commissioning and model of the boiler. The corrected details meant that the boiler installed was approved under the Domestic RHI at the time of commissioning. The supplier applied to the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) to amend the original paperwork. Complainant K appealed to Ofgem.

Ofgem reviewed the case and upheld its original decision and required Complainant K to repay £19,576.12 they had received under the Domestic RHI since the boiler had been commissioned.

What we did

We reviewed Complainant K’s complaint. We explained to Ofgem that, while we could launch a full investigation, it seemed there had been a clear administrative mistake by the supplier of Complainant K’s boiler, which it had since put right. We said that Ofgem’s response to Complainant K’s appeal seemed unfair in these circumstances. We asked Ofgem to review Complainant K’s case again.

Ofgem agreed to this. As a result, it agreed to accept the updated paperwork from Complainant K’s supplier and to restore them to the Domestic RHI scheme. Complainant K is no longer required to repay any money and will continue to receive appropriate payments, receiving the outcome they desired much more quickly than if we had carried out a full investigation.

This case summary is featured in the Ombudsman's Casework Report 2019.