17 energy suppliers rapped by Ofgem for failing vulnerable customers

17 energy suppliers rapped by Ofgem for failing vulnerable customers

Energy regulator Ofgem has identified weaknesses in how 17 of the biggest domestic energy suppliers are helping vulnerable customers. 

Findings in the third of its series of ‘deep dives’ into how energy suppliers are helping customers this winter and beyond look specifically at how suppliers treat ‘Customers in a Vulnerable Situation’.

The report details how the companies are: 

  • Identifying and recording customers in a vulnerable situation, and if they are adding them to the ‘Priority Services Register’, which offers additional support to customers in need 
  • Making free gas safety checks available to eligible customers   
  • Ensuring vulnerable customers on prepayment meters are identified and supported 
  • Providing useful information appropriate to customer needs 

Since Ofgem’s initial assessment and ratings were formed, many suppliers have already responded positively based on the feedback from the review. All the action taken from all the Market Compliance Reviews so far can now be seen collectively

Findings showed that, although some good practice was identified, all suppliers need to make further improvements, with the key findings being: 

  • Severe weaknesses were found in five suppliers – Good Energy, Outfox, SO Energy, TruEnergy, Utilita 
  • Moderate weaknesses were found in five suppliers – E (Gas & Electricity), Ecotricity, Green Energy UK, Octopus and Shell 
  • Minor weaknesses were found in seven suppliers - British Gas, Bulb, EDF, E.ON, Ovo, Scottish Power and Utility Warehouse. 

Suppliers have engaged positively with the process and, since receiving their indicative ratings in October, are taking swift action to make the improvements needed. This open and cooperative approach to improving protections for vulnerable customers is welcomed by the energy regulator. 

Neil Lawrence, director of retail at Ofgem, said: “From eligible customers who are missing out on free gas safety checks through to companies not identifying vulnerable customers to be offered obvious support on the Priority Services Register, this robust review has highlighted that suppliers need to do more to support consumers.

“We welcome the cooperation from suppliers and action taken so far, and, although we are seeing some very good practice in parts of the industry, we can see there is still much more to be done.  

“Most suppliers take the protection of vulnerable customers seriously and several good initiatives to support customers have been launched recently. While it’s encouraging to see the engagement on this Market Compliance Review, with some improvement actions already taking place, we’ve seen a number of failings across the board which need to be urgently addressed. It’s going to be a very challenging winter for everyone, and customers must be confident they are getting the help and support they need.  

“My message to suppliers today is simple- be proactive. Help your customers to know what support is available, and then deliver it.”  

Some good practice was also identified as part of the review, with some suppliers offering ‘cash grants towards energy bills’ for customers, and many energy companies signing up to Energy UK’s Vulnerability Commitment. 

Ofgem communicated the ratings to all suppliers earlier this month and, since then, has started compliance engagement on the areas for improvement. The regulator will be keeping a close eye on the actions taken to close the gaps identified through this assessment and will consider enforcement action under its Enforcement Guidelines where necessary. 

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