Ofgem announces new rules to help vulnerable households with energy bills

Energy suppliers could be required to keep their enquiry lines open longer and to offer more temporary payment holidays to help vulnerable customers.

Ofgem is proposing a host of new requirements for energy suppliers to ensure all customers get a better service going into the winter months.

Under the plans, all domestic customers will be able to contact their supplier and get support if they are struggling to pay their bills.

Suppliers would be told to prioritise customers in vulnerable situations, or individuals who represent them, to make sure they get immediate help.

Neil Lawrence, director at Ofgem, said: “Suppliers are short-changing too many of their customers, who deserve better.

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“Customers need more support when they are struggling and should be able to contact their supplier without frustration or undue delay when they need help.”

Other measures to help those struggling with bills include early intervention to work out what support a particular family needs, including temporary payment holidays if a customer is struggling to pay their bills.

The energy firms would have to provide 24/7 emergency support for customers who are cut off from power or gas supply because of an issue, such as a meter fault.

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They would also have to keep their enquiry lines open over extended periods including evenings and weekends.

Suppliers would also have to make sure their customer service is easily accessible over email, via webchat and on other digital-based platforms.

Consumers would get better information when looking to switch, as companies would have to publish more details about their customer service performance.

Mr Lawrence said: “The plans we are announcing put the welfare of business and domestic consumers first and set out a comprehensive package to tackle poor behaviour by energy suppliers.

“Good customer service is important for all consumers, but it can make a critical difference to welfare and the safety of the most vulnerable.

“While we have seen good practice from some suppliers, we expect every company to raise the bar to provide a consistent service that customers can rely on – and this mission should be driven from the top.

“We believe these recommendations can make a positive difference to consumers and we aim to have changes in place before the cold winter months return.”

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