[INSIGHTS] Ofgem: Vulnerability and guidelines within the Energy Industry

At the end of April Ofgem held a Vulnerability summit at which Jonathan Bearley gave a speech highlighting the need for a focus on vulnerability. Interestingly also the lines between financial difficulty and non-financial vulnerability is also increasingly getting blurred, with an increasing discussion of financial vulnerability. we will likely see even more of this trend going forward.

Jonathan Brearley’s Speech at Ofgem’s Vulnerability Summit

Energy prices are unlikely to return to pre-2021 levels and there is much to be done on vulnerability soon, an approach highlighted in the speech, with much to be learnt from other regulators too.

Existing Ofgem guidelines on vulnerability can be accessed below

Ofgem Customer Vulnerability Strategy


Summary

Jonathan Brearley, the CEO of Ofgem, delivered a speech at Ofgem’s Vulnerability Summit, highlighting the need to protect vulnerable energy customers. He acknowledged that while energy prices are expected to ease in the coming months, there will always be a significant group of vulnerable consumers who struggle to meet their energy needs. Brearley emphasized three categories of vulnerability: financial vulnerability, the need for assistance in accessing energy services, and the risks faced by customers without energy due to personal circumstances. He discussed the importance of finding ways to ensure that financially vulnerable individuals can afford energy without falling into unmanageable debt. He also emphasized the need for suppliers to treat vulnerable customers fairly and for the integration and improvement of existing registers to better identify and support vulnerable customers.

Key Points

  • Energy prices are expected to ease significantly, but there will always be a significant group of vulnerable consumers who struggle to meet their energy needs.
  • Vulnerability in the energy sector falls into three categories: financial vulnerability, the need for assistance in accessing services, and risks faced by customers without energy due to personal circumstances.
  • Efforts should be focused on helping financially vulnerable individuals afford the energy they need without accumulating unmanageable debt.
  • Suppliers should go beyond minimum standards and treat vulnerable customers fairly.
  • Integration and improvement of existing registers across sectors are necessary to better identify and support vulnerable customers.
  • The Priority Services Register plays a crucial role in protecting vulnerable customers, and suppliers and network companies must use it to provide appropriate support.
  • The goal should be to create a joint register encompassing multiple sectors and government agencies, allowing vulnerable customers’ information to be shared with a reliable source.
  • Action is needed before winter to ensure the right support is in place for vulnerable customers.
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Key Takeaways

Jonathan Brearley’s speech at Ofgem’s Vulnerability Summit emphasized the ongoing challenges faced by vulnerable energy customers. While energy prices are expected to ease, there will always be a significant group of individuals who struggle to afford their energy needs. Efforts should focus on providing financial support, improving access to services, and addressing risks faced by vulnerable customers. Integration and improvement of existing registers are crucial to better identify and support those in need. Action needs to be taken promptly to ensure the right support is in place before the arrival of winter.

Ofgem Vulnerability Strategy Summary

  • Ofgem’s primary duty is to protect current and future consumers.
  • They have a statutory duty to consider the needs of vulnerable groups.
  • The first Consumer Vulnerability Strategy was published in 2013.
  • The updated strategy aims to improve the identification of vulnerability and smart use of data.
  • Supporting those struggling with their bills is a key focus.
  • Driving significant improvements in customer service for vulnerable groups is another goal.
  • Encouraging positive and inclusive innovation is important.
  • Working with others to solve issues that cut across multiple sectors is necessary.

Ofgem Recommendations

  • Firms should embed vulnerability innovation into their business practices.
  • They should use data to identify and support vulnerable customers.
  • Firms should provide clear and accessible information to customers, particularly those in vulnerable situations.
  • They should ensure that their products and services are designed with the needs of vulnerable customers in mind.
  • Firms should work with other organizations to address issues that cut across multiple sectors.
  • They should provide training for staff on how to identify and support vulnerable customers.
  • Firms should regularly review their policies and procedures to ensure they are effective in supporting vulnerable customers.
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