Energy industry to investigate better standards for vulnerable customers
THE energy industry is to investigate how it can improve its standards of care and support for vulnerable customers.
Trade association Energy UK has launched a new independently-chaired commission which will hold hearings across the UK over the coming months to hear from consumer, elderly, disability and mental health groups as well as experts on financial vulnerability.
It will consider how vulnerability affects a customer’s ability to engage with the energy market and how suppliers, government departments and regulator Ofgem contribute to care and support for those in vulnerable circumstances.
A final report with recommendations will be released towards the end of this year.
Energy UK said the commission was an important next step in its efforts to improve customer service and to ensure suppliers were meeting the needs of all their customers.
Last year a study by Ofgem of vulnerable consumers in the energy market concluded that their experiences continued to “vary widely” and urged the industry to “drive up standards”. Last week Ofgem announced it was hiking a price cap aimed at protecting vulnerable and pre-payment customers.
Ofgem said it was increasing the level of its safeguard tariff from April 1, meaning the average dual fuel bill will rise from £1,031 to £1,089 a year due to higher gas and electricity costs.
It followed the regulator extending its safeguard tariff to almost one million vulnerable customers on February 2, taking the total number of households protected by the energy tariff to more than 5 million. The commission’s chairman, Lord Whitty, said: “Vulnerability of all kinds present a range of challenges for the energy industry and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to take on the role of chairman of the new commission to explore how energy suppliers, and wider sectors both public and private, can best serve, support and protect customers in vulnerable circumstances.
“I look forward to working with all concerned to progress this vital work, and to build on the hard work and progress made so far by the energy sector.”