Urgent action ‘needed to improve support for vulnerable customers’

A new report calls for suppliers, regulators and government, as well as other organisations to do more to identify and assist struggling billpayers

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Urgent action is needed to improve support for vulnerable customers.

That’s the verdict from the Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, which was launched last year by Energy UK and is independently chaired by Lord Whitty.

The commissions calls for all energy companies, regulators and government, as well as price comparison websites, consumer groups and charities, to better identify and assist customers in difficult circumstances.

It says despite examples of good practice exist in places across the industry, on the whole the energy sector is inconsistent in adequately meeting the needs of these people.

The group calls for an independently monitored Code of Conduct for suppliers to be implemented and for “systematic training” for all frontline staff to be introduced.

It urges industry to help raise the profile of the Priority Service Register and says suppliers must leave a number of different contact methods open to customers, for example written letters for those without access to modern technology.

The Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances says partnerships between suppliers and charities must be strengthened and streamlined, calls for strong regulatory protection to protect those using fuels like LPG and heating oil and recommends a social tariff for low-income customers should come into action after the current default price cap ends.

In its report, it emphasises that Ofgem’s licencing regime should be strengthened and that the government should introduce a state-funded energy efficiency scheme to tackle fuel poverty across England.

Chair of the Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, Lord Whitty, said: “Nobody likes to think of themselves as ‘vulnerable’ but any one of us could become vulnerable in a heartbeat.

“Vulnerability and the need for support is not just a question of customers struggling to pay bills but of individuals and households facing a wide range of difficulties – any of which can make the requirements of day-to-day living a challenge.”

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