These rules, set to take effect in December, mandate that suppliers proactively engage with customers who miss two monthly or one quarterly payment to assess their financial difficulties and offer support, such as affordable payment plans or, if necessary, repayment holidays.
In addition, suppliers must make Citizens Advice ratings of their customer service publicly available, shedding light on aspects like call wait times and response quality.
Ofgem intends to collaborate with the energy sector to develop new customer service metrics for publication next year.
In a speech at the Energy UK Annual Conference, Ofgem’s Chief Executive Officer, Jonathan Brearley, praised recent improvements in the industry’s customer service standards but called on all suppliers to meet the high benchmarks set by leading companies.
Mr Brearley warned that Ofgem would not hesitate to take action against suppliers failing to meet customer service standards, citing previous instances where firms paid hefty fines for subpar service.
“This is why the industry needs to do all it can to ensure good customer services and provide help with managing debt, especially for the most vulnerable.
“In the last year, we have seen some good examples of suppliers stepping up their support for customers. However, despite this, the feeling of those on the frontline working with vulnerable households is that more still needs to be done.
“Long wait times to speak to someone on the phone. Letters not replied to. Lack of empathy for people’s personal circumstances. This needs to change and today we are setting out our expectations of suppliers this winter, and how they will be held to account to ensure consumers can get hold of them more easily.”
Responding to Ofgem plans for better customer service standards from energy suppliers, Gillian Cooper, Head of Energy Policy at Citizens Advice, said: “Aggressive debt collection by energy suppliers can make a difficult situation so much worse for struggling households.
“In an era of high energy prices and record energy debts, treating customers fairly is more important than ever. Any firm letting its customers down should rightly expect enforcement action.
“Ofgem is also right to make sure struggling customers can easily contact their supplier. Poor performance here will be reflected in our star rating which all suppliers will now be required to publish.”