Ofgem publishes Market Compliance Review into customers struggling with bills

Ofgem publishes Market Compliance Review into customers struggling with bills

Energy regulator Ofgem has today published its Market Compliance Review of how energy suppliers help customers in payment difficulties and has found issues ranging from minor through to severe weaknesses, or failings.

The deep dive found that, although good practice exists across the industry, with one supplier having no issues, most need to make improvements in processes and governance to meet their obligations.

The majority of suppliers were found to have minor or moderate issues and three were found to have ‘severe’ weaknesses – of which two suppliers have been served with immediate enforcement notices.

Given the seriousness of these concerns, Ofgem has already issued Provisional Orders to Utilita and ScottishPower, requiring specific and urgent actions, and the regulator will also consider whether enforcement action is warranted for other suppliers.

The report found that British Gas had no significant issues, while eight suppliers (Ecotricity, EDF, E.ON, Octopus, OVO, Shell, UW and SO Energy) were found to have ‘minor’ issues.

Ofgem revealed that five suppliers, including E, Good, Green Energy, Outfox and Bulb had ‘moderate’ weaknesses . While Tru Energy, Utilita and ScottishPower demonstrated ‘severe’ weaknesses in the way they deal with customers having payment difficulties, with Utilita and ScottishPower being issued with enforcement notices.

Amongst the findings were companies with non-existent policy relating to customers in payment difficulties, a lack of management oversight in the quality of their customer engagement and a lack of adequate training materials.

Energy suppliers have been facing demands of their own over the past year; however prioritising vulnerable customers struggling to pay their bills during this winter is critical.

Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem CEO, said: “This winter will be challenging, especially for those struggling to pay their energy bills. Although the government’s package of support will provide some welcome relief, it’s critical that, going into this tough winter, energy companies prioritise the needs of vulnerable customers struggling to pay their bills.

“We have reviewed suppliers on how they help customers who are having trouble paying their bills, particularly those who are vulnerable, and found some suppliers have fallen short of the standards Ofgem expects. We accept that there are many pressures on energy companies in the market this Winter, but the needs of vulnerable customers must be part of their top priorities. We will now work with companies on where they can improve, and I all urge all suppliers to step up to the challenge.”

The full review can be found here.

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