Citizens Advice has called for customers to be automatically compensated whenever network companies breach their performance standards.

In a new report, the charity says £5.1 million they were entitled to receive went unclaimed over the last three years.

Network operators are required to meet 39 guaranteed standards set by the regulator Ofgem. They include standards for how they respond to emergencies, their complaints procedures and the time it takes to reconnect customers following bad weather.

Citizens Advice says “very few” domestic customers claim the money they are owed when network companies fail to meet these requirements. This is because they are unaware of their eligibility, forgot to file a claim, or fail to do so within the three-month time limit.

It says the compulsory compensation scheme which already covers some of the standards should therefore be adopted across the board.

Compensation between 2015/16 and 2017/18

Source: Citizens Advice

“This money should be in customers’ pockets,” said Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy. “We want Ofgem to get tougher with the energy network companies so that customers automatically receive all the compensation they’re entitled to.

“Guaranteed standards should mean guaranteed compensation. At the very least there should be a system of financial penalties for those energy firms who still don’t proactively pay people what they’re due.”

A spokesperson for Ofgem responded: “All network companies providing energy to homes should be meeting minimum standards of service. In many cases these companies are going above and beyond the standards, but in cases where they fail the standard consumers are entitled to receive payments.

“We are considering proposals which would mean that payments would be automatically paid to affected gas customers from April 2021, but in the meantime we encourage all affected customers to contact their network company to claim the compensation they are entitled to.”

Earlier this week, Ofgem brought in automatic compensation for customers who are mistakenly switched to another energy supplier without being promptly returned or fail to receive their credit balance within ten days of being issued final bill following a correct switch.

The regulator is also planning to introduce automatic compensation for delayed switches and late final bills at some point in 2019.