Ofgem sets out five point plan to help vulnerable consumers
- New strategy sets outcomes Ofgem expects industry to achieve, so vulnerable consumers are not left behind by the pace of change in the energy industry
- Ofgem has identified five key areas it wants the energy industry to focus on in order to better protect consumers
- Ofgem acts to further strengthen disconnection protections outlining plans to step up support for prepayment customers that self-disconnect.
Energy regulator Ofgem yesterday started a conversation with key stakeholders on its new Consumer Vulnerability Strategy until 2025. The Consumer Vulnerability Strategy outlines five themes with outcomes that Ofgem is seeking views from stakeholders and consumers on:
- 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
- Working with partners to tackle issues that cut across multiple sectors.
While the price cap is in place it is expected that digitalisation, decarbonisation and decentralisation are likely to change the way consumers interact with their energy suppliers. These may fundamentally alter the energy market. Ofgem is determined to ensure that the interests of consumers, especially the vulnerable, are protected and they can benefit from these changes.
Ofgem’s previous Consumer Vulnerability Strategy strengthened protections for consumers in vulnerable situations by introducing new rules to support the most vulnerable. Ofgem has undertaken strong compliance and enforcement activity to make sure energy companies comply with these rules to protect these consumers.
The success of the Consumer Vulnerability Strategy has resulted in nearly eliminating disconnections for debt. In the new Consumer Vulnerability Strategy, one of our first priorities is to strengthen protections for consumers in vulnerable situations who self-disconnect from their pre-payment meters.
Ofgem is also concerned suppliers aren’t doing enough for people in debt. Ofgem is considering putting in place rules that ensure a customer’s ability to pay is properly considered when setting repayment plans, monitoring repayments and ensuring consumer understanding of arrangements.
Mary Starks, executive director, consumer and markets at Ofgem yesterday 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.”
Notes to editors
- The Consumer Vulnerability Strategy 2025 consultation is open until 8 August 2019.
- The self-disconnection consultation will be published in summer 2019.
- The Ability to Pay principles were introduced in 2010 and contain the key considerations we want suppliers to take into account when assessing a customer’s ability to pay if they are in actual or potential payment difficulty.
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