Ofgem introduces greater protections for vulnerable energy customers
The regulator identified five areas of focus for the industry as part of its Consumer Vulnerability Strategy to 2020. These include: improving identification of vulnerability and smart use of data; supporting those struggling with their bills; driving significant improvements in customer service; encouraging positive and inclusive innovation and working with partners to tackle issues that cut across multiple sectors.
Ofgem said that digitalisation, decarbonisation and decentralisation are changing the way consumers interact with their energy suppliers. It said it wants to ensure that changes benefit all energy users.
To date, Ofgem’s Consumer Vulnerability Strategy has resulted in nearly eliminating disconnections for debt. At the moment, it is strengthening protections for consumers in vulnerable situations who self-disconnect from their pre-payment meters.
Mary Starks, executive director, consumer and markets at Ofgem said: “We want to ensure that the energy market works well for everyone, including those least able to look out for themselves. Supporting and protecting customers in vulnerable situations is a key priority for Ofgem.”
“Energy is changing, as the sector rises to the challenge of decarbonisation with the creation of new businesses and business models. We cannot have a situation in which the most savvy and affluent customers benefit from these changes, while others are left behind. That is why we want to work with consumer groups and the industry to create a fair energy market for the future.”
Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at uSwitch.com, said: “We particularly welcome Ofgem’s focus on improving targeted support for those who need extra help.
“However, that ambition needs to move beyond the desire for improved understanding and information sharing as set out in the strategy published today. There need to be concrete recommendations for practical action which improve the energy efficiency of housing and provide financial support where necessary, in order to bring tangible improvements to the lives of households who are struggling the most.”