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Energy watchdog urges suppliers to offer dedicated phone lines for vulnerable users

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak
Posted:
Updated:
03/05/2023

Energy suppliers could be forced to offer dedicated phone lines for vulnerable billpayers as service standards have dropped across the industry.

Energy regulator Ofgem is looking at bringing in new rules to make it easier for vulnerable customers to contact their supplier and to have queries resolved in a timely manner.

It also said it wants to ensure those who are struggling to pay their bills “receive tailored support as soon as possible”.

The consultation has launched today as Ofgem looks to improve customer service standards across the energy sector, which has been plagued by the prepayment meter scandal earlier this year.

It led to Ofgem banning forced prepayment meter installations before suppliers were required to sign up to a new code of practice before being allowed to carry on these meter switches.

Further, data from Ofgem and Citizens Advice revealed that customer satisfaction with energy suppliers’ service has fallen from 74% in Q4 2018 to 66% in Q4 2022.

Meanwhile, survey data also revealed that the percentage of customers who reported it was very or fairly easy to contact their supplier dropped from 73% to 58% in the same time period. And those who reported it difficult doubled from 13% to 26%.

Suppliers ‘must do better’

Ofgem said it expects the consultation will lead to “more formal recommendations” to be in place before winter.

Jemma Baker, deputy director for future retail for Ofgem, said: “We have engaged widely with consumers and the message to suppliers is loud and clear – they must do better.

“We expect suppliers to treat customers fairly, especially those who are vulnerable, and to provide consistently good-quality service.

“We want to give all customers an expectation that they have access to the same standards of support, no matter which supplier they are with.

“Where consumers struggle with bills, it is essential they receive the appropriate services to protect and help them. Vulnerable consumers, including those on the Priority Services Register, must be able to access essential information easily and when they need it. ”