Energy summit urges ‘big six’ to do more to support vulnerable consumers

The Scottish Government hosted an energy summit yesterday to challenge the ‘big six’ energy suppliers to do more to help people who are struggling to pay their energy bills.

The summit, which was attended by energy suppliers alongside Ofgem and consumer groups, discussed measures to help customers included moving away from pre-payment meters as well as extra support for those struggling to heat their homes.

Ministers also called on energy companies to make data publically available to ensure issues facing vulnerable customers can be tracked and managed.

Equalities secretary Angela Constance chaired the summit and was joined by housing minister Kevin Stewart and energy minister Paul Wheelhouse.

Speaking after the summit, Ms Constance said: “Fuel poverty is a pressing issue and far too many households are struggling with unaffordable energy costs. We also know that vulnerable consumers, such as those living in poverty, are significantly more likely to be disadvantaged by higher costs and poor service.

“That’s why we are calling on energy suppliers and consumer groups to work together with us to tackle this issue head on. They must do everything within their power to get a better deal for the energy consumers who need it most.

“During the summit suppliers agreed to do more to assist those struggling to pay their energy bills and report back to government Ministers on their actions and progress. This information will feed into the work of the Scottish Government’s newly formed consumers and markets taskforce.

“Through bold measures like the Fuel Poverty Strategy and Warm Homes Bill, we are taking steps to combat fuel poverty. Energy suppliers also have a critical role in making sure that the poverty premium is properly tackled.”

Anthony Pygam, partner for consumers at Ofgem, added: “Ofgem’s aim is to protect the interests of existing and future energy consumers, particularly those in vulnerable situations. In April last year we introduced a safeguard tariff to protect prepayment customers that benefit least from competition and typically do not have access to the cheapest tariffs in the market.

“We have also introduced an enforceable vulnerability principle which requires suppliers to do more to treat their vulnerable customers fairly. We are looking forward to supporting the Scottish Government in their work to combat fuel poverty.”

The energy summit follows on from a cross ministerial meeting on fuel poverty, which took place in December 2017.

Attendees at the energy summit included representatives from:

  • Centrica
  • Citizens Advice
  • Citizens Advice Scotland
  • EDF
  • Energy Action Scotland
  • Eon
  • Energy UK
  • Energy Saving Trust
  • Existing Homes Alliance Scotland
  • Extra Help Unit
  • nPower
  • Ofgem
  • SPower
  • SSE
  • The Scottish Government said that supporting consumer engagement and increasing protection from excessive costs is a key priority of its Energy Strategy. The outcomes of the summit will also be integrated into the forthcoming Fuel Poverty Strategy, which is open for consultation until 1 February.

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