Increased focus on vulnerability ‘must lead to action’ from energy industry

The Money Advice Trust has today welcomed Ofgem’s new draft Consumer Vulnerability Strategy, which provides a strong focus for the energy industry on how to improve support for customers in vulnerable circumstances.

The draft Consumer Vulnerability Strategy, which is open for consultation until 8 August 2019, focuses on the five themes:

  • 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.

In its strategy the regulator outlines concerns that suppliers are not doing enough for people in debt and outlines potential rules to ensure greater consideration is given to customer’s ability to pay.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, who served as a member of the Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, said: “This increased focus on vulnerability in the energy sector is a welcome one, and shows that there is the will from the regulator to improve support for energy customers in vulnerable circumstances.

“At National Debtline, household debts, such as energy, are increasingly making up a significant part of the debt landscape.

“I am particularly pleased to see the regulator looking at strengthening support for customers facing payment difficulty and encouraging suppliers to be more proactive – something we have long called for.

“Following the recent report from the Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, it feels like momentum is growing to improve practice across the energy sector.

“However, as last week’s report identified, significant work is needed to improve the consistency of support across the sector. It is now up to suppliers and the industry as a whole to act. There is an important role for the third sector to play and we look forward to building on our existing work with energy firms to access the advice and help they need.”