Information for customers
Additional support for customers
The unprecedented cost of gas due to the global energy crisis has pushed prices up for customers and increased the pressure on energy retail suppliers. We need a sustainable retail market which is vital to provide this essential service at the lowest cost. Since August 2021, 30 suppliers have exited the market, and more supplier failures will lead to higher bills.
Despite rising costs and increased pressure, energy suppliers continue to increase the support they provide to customers, including additional funding for customers in fuel poverty. All major retail suppliers have their own funds, independently managed by fund administrators or in partnership with consumer bodies like Citizens Advice.
UK Suppliers provide discretionary support of around £54 million on top of the more than £1 billion in mandatory schemes they deliver every year. These mandatory schemes are to help people struggling with energy bills. This includes the funding for the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and the Warm Home Discount (WHD).
Suppliers have a range of support for customers which they put into place at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and have committed to continuing including:
- Payment holidays
- Restructured payment plans
- Credit advances to customers on pre-payment meters
- Recognising that a growing number of customers will require support, many suppliers have increased customer service resource, from hiring more front-line advisors to setting up dedicated affordability support teams.
Energy UK has been working with its members to share good practice across industry and provide practical tools for retail suppliers to help them serve their customers, given the rising pressure on customer service amidst the ongoing economic situation:
- The Customer Service Good Practice Guidance 2022 was produced following a roundtable with Energy UK’s members, Citizens Advice and representatives from the finance industry who shared information and insights from customer service in financial markets. The report is a summary of what we’ve learnt through this process. It is intended to promote good customer service practices. Whilst sharing these ideas is valuable, one size does not fit all and tailored approaches are becoming ever more necessary.
- Energy UK’s Vulnerability Commitment is a set of principles and commitments from energy suppliers to support customers in vulnerable circumstances in addition to existing industry regulations. The Vulnerability Commitment is open to all energy suppliers, and aims to drive continuous improvement in support for customers in vulnerable circumstances based on three key principles: Accessibility, Collaboration and Innovation. The Vulnerability Commitment Good Practice Summary 2022 highlights where signatories to Energy UK’s Vulnerability Commitment link are doing exceptionally innovative or noteworthy work.
Examples of supplier customer support by company:
Last updated: 11/10/2023.
- British Gas has committed to £100 million in additional customer support since the start of the energy crisis – the biggest voluntary support package ever offered to UK energy customers from an energy company.
- The company has a long history of supporting all energy consumers through the British Gas Energy Trust (BGET), an independent charity, separate to, but solely funded by British Gas, that offers help to individuals across the country through energy debt relief grants, emergency small energy grants and a network of 45 funded money and energy advice projects. The funded advice centres provide each visitor with an average of £950 added to their yearly income – improving their finances in the longer term. Since the launch of the Trust in 2004, over £78 million has been spent helping over 150,000 people manage their energy costs. In the last year, BGET provided £1.8 million of debt relief, emergency fuel vouchers, and grants to replace boilers, with a further £3.6 million in funding for 49 frontline charity organisations.
- This year British Gas announced £10m in targeted support for prepayment customers, including up to £250 of free, no strings attached credit being provided to prepayment meter customers who are in debt. This fund has already helped over 60,000 prepayment customers. In 2022, British Gas doubled the emergency credit available to customers who are on prepayment meters.
- The company is also supporting great British businesses with a £15 million fund for those who have been struggling with energy costs as well as offering to extend their existing contract terms by 12 months in order to significantly lower their current rates.
- British Gas is a major contributor to the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Last year it passed on more than £85.5 million to around 573,000 customers. It also supports nearly three million customers on British Gas’ Priority Services Register, which receives around 5,000 calls to the dedicated phone line each week.
- The company continues to help customers manage their debt and give them more time to pay, through payment plans and encouraging early meter readings.
- Throughout this winter, consumers can visit their local British Gas Post Office Pop Ups where advisors will be on-site to provide an in-depth overview of the support available, signpost people to local organisations for ongoing support, check for benefits entitlements and provide free energy-saving tips and advice.
- EDF has boosted its funding for customer support by £15 million this winter. Alongside additional funding for its Customer Support Fund, which provides debt relief and energy efficient white goods, the energy supplier will spend £7.5 million on effectively rolling back standing charges for at least 260,000 of its most vulnerable customers (Warm Home Discount Core Groups 1 and 2 customers), to their pre-crisis level (April ’21) for the first quarter of 2024. Since its launch in 2003, EDF’s Customer Support Fund has provided more than £55 million of support.
- This winter, EDF will once again be offering some customers in need a ‘fresh start’ by clearing their debt, alongside payment matching customer top-ups for its prepayment meter customers. 87% of customers supported last year remain debt free, with 67% of those still in debt seeing a reduction. So far this year, we have set up 251,000 repayment plans for residential customers. This is up 25% on last year.
- A total of £8.5m million of additional support as part of the Warm Homes Discount funding scheme will be provided in addition to at least 350,000 eligible customers receiving £150 towards their energy bills. EDF has worked with a number of third party organisations including Citizens Advice Plymouth, National Energy Action, IncomeMax, MacMillan Cancer Support and SHINE to help fuel poor customers claim over £2milion in new benefits and increased income.
- EDF is the market leader in ECO, a government energy efficiency scheme set up to tackle fuel poverty and help reduce carbon emissions. It has delivered over £100 million of support in 2022 helping insulate and improve the energy efficiency of homes across Britain and will deliver a further £82 million in 2023. Since 2022 EDF has delivered 30,000 energy efficiency measures in 7,000 homes saving these customers £6m on their bills each year.
- EDF has invested in over 30,000 training hours dedicated to supporting vulnerable customers, since the start of the cost-of-living crisis, enabling the energy supplier to offer tailored and effective support.
- E.ON Next has launched its Winter Affordability Scheme, an £80m+ support package for more vulnerable customers this winter. E.ON Next will fund up to 50% of eligible customers’ energy bills from the time customers sign up through to the end of winter in March 2024. As part of this package E.ON Next will also write off any debt a customer has on joining the scheme at the end of the term, supporting low income customers and those with medical dependency needs. You can find further details about the Winter Affordability Scheme on the E.ON Next website.
- The E.ON Next Energy Fund supports eligible customers by clearing debt from their energy account and provides energy efficient white goods such as washing machines, fridges, freezers and cookers when urgently needed.
- A provision of £10 million has been allocated to the E.ON Next Energy Fund to help support its customers during the Cost of Living Crisis.
- E.ON Next’s energy specialists are specially trained to sensitively help customers in difficult circumstances, including those with complex health & social needs, changes in life circumstances, or having problems with paying outstanding bills.
- In collaboration with Paylink solutions, the company have implemented a digital tool enabling customers to build their household budget which they can submit to E.ON Next for review, ensuring they can give customers who are struggling more time to pay and agree an affordable repayment plan to rid themselves of debt over time. This includes providing additional support credit to prepay customers.
- E.ON Next has collaborated with Citizens Advice Gateshead to provide a direct referral service for its customers with complex needs. This service has identified £3 million of additional income for customers in terms of unclaimed benefits.
- Currently E.ON Next has over a third of its customers on the Priority Services Register which ensures they can access the additional support that suits their needs.
- E.ON Next has long-standing and positive relationships with all the main debt advice charities and collaborates with them in the design and delivery of customer support solutions.
- E.ON Next is also collaborating with other charities such as Kidney Care UK, Age UK and MacMillan Cancer Support to provide bespoke training to its specialists and to enable direct referral of its customers into those organisations where they can benefit from a range of services and support.
- All E.ON Next customers are eligible to exclusive offers on energy solutions such as energy efficient boilers, solar panels and heat pumps. It also refers customers to its Obligation team to access paid-for energy efficiency measures that support their situations.
- E.ON has worked with local authorities across the country to deliver the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme. The Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme (GHG LAD) is a fund launched by the government to help homeowners pay for energy saving improvements for their homes. The grant helps by installing measures such as wall insulation, solar panels and air source heat pumps.
- Homes for Living is a scheme designed to support mobility, wellbeing and independence, offering free home aids and equipment designed to give more freedom in the home.
- E.ON Next is a major contributor to the Warm Home Discount Scheme and this year will be passing on more than £80 million of support to more than 500,000 of its customers.
- E.ON Next provides 24/7 digital support to its customers via social media channels.
- Providing partial debt relief to some customers, whilst helping them to move onto a cheaper deal.
- Offering significant flexibility in timescales of repayment plans and working with 3rd parties to assist customers with debt management.
- Expanded customer service teams over the past twelve months by 20% to provide shorter wait times and improved account support.
- Offering extended hours support for our customers to allow them to contact us outside working hours.
- Conducting targeted reviews which have improved staff training and customer communications related to customers struggling to pay their bills.
- Introduced a dedicated prepayment team and direct phone line, to provide fast, specialist assistance for those paying for their energy as they go.
- Improved the digital experience for prepayment customers, giving them better insights into their energy use.
- Significantly increased the emergency credit available to prepayment customers, whilst determining Additional Support Credits levels on a case-by-case basis to meet customer’s needs.
- Offering financial incentives for customers to have a smart meter installed, which can help with visibility and budgeting of energy use, as well as provide access to participation in money-saving flexibility services.
- Allowing customers to benefit from flexibility services this winter to help them reduce their demand and save money.
- Created a £15 million Octo Assist financial hardship fund dedicated to helping customers who are unable to afford the cost of living. The fund has already helped over 70,000 customers.
- Consistently pricing its Standard Variable Tariff (SVT) below the price cap, absorbing £150 million on behalf of customers to charge less for loyal customers.
- Octopus Energy founder Greg Jackson cut his salary to minimum wage at the beginning of the energy crisis, donating his original £150,000 salary to the company’s staff welfare and to Octo Assist.
- Enables customers to round up their energy bills to support others, through donations to National Energy Action and Citizens Advice, raising over £150,000 in 14 months.
- Launched an innovative electric blankets scheme in 2021 to help customers save energy and money. 50,000 free electric blankets have been sent to customers who needed them most, and analysis showed that customers with electric blankets saw a 20% fall in their gas bill, while only increasing their electricity usage by 0.2% – adding up to an average saving of £150 across winter. The scheme will run again in winter 2023/24.
- Ran a domestic flexibility scheme – Saving Sessions – which paid participating customers to shift usage out of peak times. More than 700,000 customers signed up, with £5.3m being paid out – the top 5% also made £41.24 on average this winter.
- Loaned thousands of infrared cameras to customers to find spots in their homes where heat was escaping. Once those draughts are identified, people can look into ways to get them fixed and thus reduce their energy usage.
- Committed £40 million worth of money to give customers a 4% standing charge reduction compared to the price cap, and up to 100,000 customers in greatest need were able to apply for “standing charge holidays” of up to 6 months.
- Introduced ‘Signvideo’ so customers can speak to us through a British Sign Language interpreter using live video call technology.
- Utilises a dedicated team of field agents to visit Octopus’ vulnerable customers with the aim of helping identify support and action that can help reduce bills/improve home efficiency and support customers’ ability to pay (including a focus on customers with a medical dependency on power and/or heat).
- Launched the UK’s first doorstep energy saving advice for customers during winter 2022/23. The scheme, which is called ‘Energy Helpers’, saw hundreds of Octopus staff upskilled to offer tailored energy saving advice to 202,000 customers – helping to reduce bills and provide customers with additional support.
- Developed evening support for digital solutions and strengthened emergency response times as well as boosting office hours team sizes.
- Offering customers 24/7 emergency support through the Octopus team in New Zealand, and extended email support from 8 am-10 pm, 7 days a week too.
- Providing personalised account support (e.g. return of credit, payment holidays).
- This winter, OVO is supporting customers with an extensive package of support worth nearly £40 million. The package will be open from 16 October 2023 and will provide eligible customers who are struggling as a result of high energy prices with financial and practical support.
- However, although the cost of standing charge is increasing from 1 October 2023 for pay monthly customers, OVO is not passing this permitted increase onto any of it’s customers.
- OVO pay as you go customers will receive an additional discount on their gas and electricity standing charges through the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) meaning they will most likely pay no more than pay monthly customers.
- Direct debit relief, emergency top-ups and extended repayment plans for customers struggling to pay for their energy.
- Extra funds will be allocated to OVO’s Hardship Scheme, which can provide additional support via a range of measures.
- OVO’s highly-trained team can support customers if they’re in financial difficulty or struggling for the first time.
- OVO’s payment support tool can help customers work out the right payment plan for them. Options include reducing Direct debits by up to 15%, to give them the chance to get on top of their payments.
- Pay on demand customers can create a bespoke plan to spread out their payments. The plan can now last up to 36 months – up from 24 months previously.
- OVO is keeping emergency credit at the increased amount of £15. If customers switch to pay as you go, OVO will check in with them regularly to make sure they can manage.
- For OVO’s most vulnerable pay as you go customers, it’s also offering debt repayment holidays – so every penny on the meter will go towards what they use, not paying back debt.
- OVO will not disconnect anyone who falls behind this winter. If customers are unable to make their payments, contact OVO as soon as possible to find out about the tailored support it can offer.
- OVO has partnered with Experian to offer the industry’s first Open Banking digital tool. Payment Support provides bespoke repayment options, enabling members looking for support to quickly access a detailed, accurate picture of their affordability and help find a solution tailored personally to suit their current circumstances. Customers will receive a personalised plan based on their financial data to help keep on top of payments.
- ScottishPower’s Hardship Fund provides support to customers who are struggling with their bills and provided £10 million of funding during 2021 and 2022.
- It works with partner organisations, such as foodbanks, to provide prepayment customers in financial difficulty with meter credit via vouchers which does not need to be repaid. During 2021 and 2022, ScottishPower provided customers with over £200k worth of credit through this initiative.
- Over the last ten years ScottishPower has spent £672 million under its Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and plans to spend over £500m more by the end of 2026. This money funds the installation of retrofit energy efficiency measures to the most vulnerable and low-income households living in the least energy efficient properties.
- ScottishPower has provided over £40 million of financial support to customers via its Warm Home Discount (WHD) programme, supporting customers on low incomes, at risk of cold related illnesses and/or living in fuel poverty. This includes direct payments to customers alongside funding of schemes via Industry Initiatives – £3.6 million of funding was provided to schemes that provide broader energy efficiency and debt advice to customers.
- ScottishPower provides alternative payment options and tariffs for different customer circumstances as well as flexible repayment schemes for those who have built up debt including offering pausing of debt recovery and payment holidays in certain circumstances.
- ScottishPower continues to offer a range of options for customers to get in touch including phone, webchat and email options. It assesses the needs of its customers and adjusts its offering to ensure it meets customer needs, and this includes extending opening hours including over winter periods to make it easier for customers to get in touch.
- ScottishPower offers intelligent routing of contacts to specialist support teams to manage customers who are identified as being vulnerable or potentially in need of additional support. This includes Prepayment Off Supply teams, Affordability team and its “Extra Care” teams – linked to customers with special needs. Customers can share information about additional needs in a number of ways including online and over the phone.
- To reduce risk of prepayment customers going off supply, ScottishPower has extended periods where friendly non-disconnect applies and where this is not technically possible, it offers increased emergency credit
- ScottishPower offers a dedicated phoneline for Citizens Advice to get in touch on behalf of customers. In 2022, it expanded support for other third-parties, ranging from national organisations like National Energy Action to smaller, local charities such as South Seeds, by launching a Third- Party Assistance Team. This enhanced support has been positively received and is benefiting customers seeking help from third-party organisations, in particular by securing a faster resolution for them.
- Recognising the wider impacts of financial hardship, ScottishPower has included mental health training across all customer service agents, to allow them to respond sensitively to customers who are experiencing such difficulties.
- In addition to the further support ScottishPower provides to customers on its Priority Services Register, in late 2023 it will launch a partnership with SignLive who offer a tailored 3 way interactive call solution for customers who communicate using British Sign Language.
Information and advice
- ScottishPower’s long-standing and established team of Community Liaison Officers operate across Great Britain and carry out over 4,000 visits each year to customers in their homes to offer in-person advice and support on matters relating to their energy account, where this level of support is needed.
- It promotes a range of support options to customers, based on their individual needs, including support provided by ScottishPower directly such as energy efficiency advice.
- ScottishPower has developed a partnership with StepChange and is working with them to provide specialist debt advice to customers, as well as further developing the training of ScottishPower’s own customer service agents in matters related to dealing with customers in payment difficulty.
- Set up a multi-year £20 million fund to alleviate some of the financial hardship and energy debt for customers who need it most.
- In 2023, Shell Energy funded an extra £150 for every customer who received the Warm Home Discount – doubling the support they received.
- Working with AgilityEco which runs energy efficiency schemes for energy customers in a variety of challenging circumstances – helping them to reduce bills, stay warm and find help that’s available locally.
- Encouraging customers to get in contact with them if they are worried to discuss ways we can support.
- Partners with Stepchange to give free and independent advice around financial difficulty including direct referrals via booking Stepchange consultant appointments.
- Ongoing feedback from CitAd, Ombudsman, NEA and Stepchange ensures continuous improvement to be as equipped as possible to provide support.
- Increasing the amount of temporary credits for prepay customers who are at risk of self-disconnection or are struggling to top up as a result of increasing prices.
- So Energy will establish a support fund this winter to help support our customers during the Cost of Living Crisis.
- Strengthened its relationship with StepChange in order to provide customers with impartial holistic debt advice. Further integration with StepChange planned for this winter.
- Increased the number specialists dedicated to helping customers with their payments and debt by 70%.
- Further extended customer Payment Plans based on affordability checks and individual circumstances, adopting a “know your customer” approach with flexibility in mind.
- Increased frequency of Direct Debit reviews to ensure more customers have appropriate payment levels.
- Enhanced training for So Energy staff to be delivered by external industry experts to be able to better manage conversations with customer in payment difficulty.
- Delivered a customer support package worth more than £100 million, including £50 million in customer debt write-off.
- Developed Transfer Credit functionality, allowing PAYG customers to move credit from one meter to another. The feature was used 903,000 times to move £16 million of credit during the EBSS period alone.
- Offering customers self-serve access, via POWER UP feature in the My Utilita app, to up to £100 interest-free energy credits. The service has been used almost 2.5 million times during the cost-of-living crisis.
- Reached more than 4 million households via award-winning energy efficiency campaign, High5.
- Lobbied for targeted energy bill support ahead of winter 23/24.
- Undertaken first-of-its-kind research in partnership with Oxford University to measure the fuel poverty gap and the precise support required.
- Doubled the size of its Extra Care Team which supports 270,000 Priority Services Register customers.
- Added a Savings feature to the My Utilita app so customers can put aside as little as £2 in every time they top-up over the summer in readiness for when the colder months hit.
- Expanded Energy Hubs initiative with a national rollout – particularly valuable to people who have no internet access (more than 5m nationally).
- Launched the UK’s first-ever Mobile Energy Hub, which kicked off a national tour with a visit to the Hebrides.
- Increased support for vulnerable customers by launching a special care line. The number is available to front line services, such as social workers and councils.
- Through redeployment and staff Volunteering Days, delivered 2,000 hours of support to food banks nationwide.
- Seven-figure donation to charity partner Utilita Giving for the support of people in food and fuel poverty.
- Partnered with supermarket chain Iceland to launch a new campaign – Shop Smart, Cook Savvy – to help households factor in the cost to cook food items, and to identify the most economical cooking methods available to them.
- Utility Warehouse (UW) has grown its frontline customer service UK-based team by over 200 colleagues to support customers.
- It has established a dedicated front-line Ability to Pay team since 2019 to offer support and a range of payment options to customers in financial difficulty. This team has doubled in size in 2022 to over 50 advisers to ensure the right support at UW as demand is set to increase.
- This is on top of the existing Payment Solutions teams in place to manage customers in need of debt management support, which in turn has been increased by over 20% in the last 12 months.
- UW established a dedicated team to work in partnership with Citizens Advice Plymouth to support UW customers struggling with their energy bill payments. They offer budgeting advice and benefits assessments for our customers who are in payment difficulty. In the last 12 months over 6,000 UW customers have benefited from this service and it was calculated that their disposable income could be increased by up to £9m based on reducing unnecessary expenditure and claiming additional benefits.
- This year UW has commissioned an increase in the size of the Citizens Advice Plymouth team from 13 to 17 advisors to provide more support to our UW customers. It plans to increase it by at least a further 50% to cater for the expected higher energy costs this winter and more than double the financial support available.
- UW also offers a “Customer Support Scheme” via Citizens Advice Plymouth where those seen to be in fuel poverty can have debt written off to help get them back on track.
- In addition, UW offers “Financial Assistance”, also via Citizens Advice Plymouth, so that customers about to go into debt or those who run out of credit on their Prepayment meter can receive a payment of up to £140 to alleviate their situation.
- UW has also invested in 3rd party data that helps to identify potentially vulnerable customers, using data to reach out to PPM customers who may have been experiencing hardship to advise them of the support available.
- A hardship fund was introduced and doubled the financial support available to help customers via the CAB and to recruit additional CAB staff dedicated to UW customers. It also extended help to multi-service customers.