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Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances

Energy UK has launched a new Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances to explore how standards of care and support could be improved. The Commission will be independently chaired, by Lord Whitty and will be comprised of commissioners from across the business, charity and industry communities.

The Commission has published a Call for Evidence and will hold a series of sessions to hear from a broad spectrum stakeholders – from consumer groups, those representing the elderly and people with disabilities, experts on financial vulnerability and mental health charities among others. The deadline for submission was 30 May 2018.

The Commission will report by the end of 2018, and make recommendations for industry, Government and other stakeholders.

In addition to the work of the Commission, Energy UK will be separately developing a new ‘Vulnerability Charter’ to build on existing commitments and go further to support customers most in need.

Over the past few years, energy companies have proactively increased the support they provide to customers in vulnerable circumstances to ensure greater protection for those most in need.

Last year, Energy UK set up a dedicated vulnerability group and worked with the Money Advice Trust to produce a new guide, "Vulnerability, mental health, and the energy sector: a guide to help identify and support consumers", which provides practical tools for frontline staff to help customers in a range of vulnerable situations.

Find out more:

Download the biographies of the Chair and Members of the Commission.

To get involved or if you want to know more, please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Fraud Prevention

Energy suppliers take fraud and crime seriously and want to do what they can to help protect their customers. Energy suppliers will have approaches in place (and staff will be trained) to recognise and handle fraud.

As an industry, we are keen for all customers to know what they should be able to expect from their energy supplier for the four main ways suppliers interact with them:

When a meter reader or a smart meter installer visits your home:

You can verify their identity

  • Meter readers or smart meter installers carry visible identification such as a badge and sometimes wear the uniform of your supplier.
  • If you are concerned, do not hesitate to call your supplier to confirm their identity.

You can request additional security

  • You may also be able to agree with your supplier to set a password up (also valid on phone calls) for additional security.

When you call your supplier:

Energy suppliers will verify your identity

  • Suppliers need to make sure they're speaking to authorised account holders so will ask you a couple of security questions. They will not ask for account passwords or security codes related to bank accounts or other payment cards. Account details will only be disclosed with the account holder once their identity has been verified.

Energy suppliers will never ask for the passwords or security details of your bank accounts or cards.

When you receive a call from your supplier:

Be cautious

  • Just because someone knows your bank details, it doesn't mean they're genuine, so be mindful of who you trust and don't be afraid to ask them questions to verify their identity.

When you receive an e-mail from your supplier:

The e-mail will not ask for your personal details except where previously arranged;
The e-mail will only be addressed to the account holder or a nominated individual;

  • Where appropriate, your supplier will ensure that their e-mails contain your reference number.

For more tips and advice, see Stay Energy Safe.

In addition, Energy UK supports the aims of the Take 5 and CyberAware campaigns to help prevent fraud and keep consumers safe online.

For more information on these campaigns, see the links below.

Cyber Aware campaign: https://www.cyberaware.gov.uk/

Take 5 To Stop Fraud campaign: https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/

 

 

Closed accounts with credit balances for domestic customers

Energy suppliers are committed to providing the best service they can to their customers. Sometimes, however, suppliers can lose touch with former customers – usually because a customer has moved home without leaving a new address. When this happens, and when no final meter reading was provided, customers may be owed a small amount of money.

If you think this could have happened to you please get in touch with your old supplier – they will check and, if you are owed any money – get this back to you as soon as possible. No matter how long has passed, legitimate claims will always be refunded.

To help reunite customers with credit balances when they switch supplier or move home six suppliers (British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON,  power, ScottishPower and SSE) have independently agreed to adopt ten voluntary minimum standards.

Read the 10 voluntary minimum standards for final credit refunds (PDF 160KB)

 

Energy bill breakdown

Energy UK, and its members, are committed to a well-functioning retail market which produces fair outcomes for consumers.

We welcome greater transparency over energy costs and the component parts of an energy bill.

Component costs

There are five essential components which contribute to a consumer’s energy bill: wholesale costs, network costs, policy costs, operating costs and VAT. These costs change over time.
In particular, while the proportion of the bill spent on wholesale costs has fallen over the last five years, the share of other component parts has increased. At different times, each area may put upward or downward pressure on consumer bills.

This is one reason why people often ask why retail prices do not exactly follow the movement in wholesale costs. Also, the impact of these different cost elements will vary depending on how and when an individual energy company buys its energy, and if you have a gas only bill, an electricity only bill or a dual fuel bill.

The information below is based on Ofgem data and outlines the key costs of the customer energy bills in 2016 based on the audited accounts of the six largest energy suppliers.

Bill breakdown

Breakdown of a typical dual fuel bill Source: Ofgem
Wholesale costs 38%
Network costs 26%
Environmental and social obligation costs 8%
Other direct costs 1%
Operating costs 17%
Supplier pre-tax margin 5%
VAT 5%


What are these costs?

Wholesale costs

To supply consumers, energy companies must first purchase electricity and gas on the wholesale market. They may be bought directly from the market or through contracts with electricity generators or gas producers. Energy can be purchased months or even years in advance.

Network costs

Electricity and gas must be distributed from source to end user. This is done by transmission and distribution networks which are run by different companies. The wire and pipe networks need to deliver a reliable flow of energy to British homes and businesses and to connect new energy sources. Energy suppliers are charged for their use of these networks.

Operational costs

Despite companies driving out inefficiency, their relative contribution rises as wholesale costs fall. These are the costs of running of a retail energy company; metering operations, building rents and providing customer service.

Environmental and social policy costs

Government has programmes to ensure security of energy supply (the Capacity Market), deliver lower carbon electricity (Contracts for Difference, Feed-in Tariffs, and the Renewables Obligation) and energy efficient homes (Energy Company Obligation, elements of the smart meter programme) and provide direct financial support to the fuel poor (Warm Home Discount) that are levied onto customer bills.

These policies can also help households save money (several £100s in some cases) on their energy bills.

For example:

  • The Energy Company Obligation The Energy Company Obligation can deliver significant bill savings for eligible households taking up subsidised heat and insulation measures. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical semi-detached house could save around £140 per year from roof and loft insulation, and £155 from cavity wall insulation. These savings can more than outweigh the total costs of policies on bills. To find out more and to see if you might be eligible, visit the Ofgem website.
     
  • The Warm Home Discount delivers a £140 discount off the annual electricity bills of eligible low-income households. To find out if you’re eligible, and how to claim, visit the GOV.UK website.
     
  • The rollout of new Smart Meters will bring an end to estimated billing, and give energy users real-time information about their energy use to enable them to make more efficient energy choices. They will also help reduce the costs to suppliers associated with billing and metering, and make the process of switching tariffs easier and quicker. Every energy supplier will be providing smart meters to their customers between now and 2020. To find out your energy supplier’s rollout plan, visit their website. Alternatively, the Smart Energy GB website will provide this information for a range of suppliers.
     
  • The Feed-in-Tariff scheme pays out to households and businesses who have installed eligible small-scale low-carbon electricity generation technologies (such as solar panels) for all electricity they generate and export to the grid. These households and business will also save money from generating their own electricity. To find out more about the scheme, including how to apply, visit the Ofgem website.
     
  • Programmes to support investment in low-carbon electricity generation and security of supply are designed to deliver cleaner and more reliable energy supplies to households and businesses, but also have the effect of driving down market electricity prices and reducing costly price volatility. The government previously estimated this could amount to an average saving of around £5 per household in 2014.

In addition, there are minimum efficiency standards for gas boilers and energy using appliances (such as fridges, washing machines, TVs etc.) which have helped households and businesses save money on their energy bills through the natural replacement of these items.  The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a replacing an old D-G rated gas boiler with a new A-rated boiler could save a typical semi-detached house between £85 and £215 per year. The government also previously estimated that the savings from more efficient energy using appliances amounted to an average saving of around £41 per household in 2014.
 

 

 

What happens if my electricity meter behaves unexpectedly?

There may be instances, particularly with older meters where the dials or display may register incorrectly when new equipment is installed. If you notice this happening or you are concerned in any way about your existing electricity meter, please contact your supplier immediately.

It is likely that the supplier will want to exchange the meter to a more suitable type.

If there have been ongoing issues with a meter registering incorrectly, your supplier may have to estimate how energy you have used since you had new equipment installed. If this is the case suppliers have agreed that:

  • Any estimate will be based in previous consumption history
  • Any estimate will take into account the type and size of the generating equipment
  • Seasonality will be taken into account
  • Any estimate will be made after a review period after the meter had been exchanged
  • Customers will be treated in a fair and reasonable manner and where possible agreement will be reached with the customer prior to issuing a revised bill

In addition, suppliers will adopt the back billing for instances of any unbilled energy greater than 12 months old. For more information, please see the Billing Code Scenarios (PDF 350KB).

Ofgem and the National Measurement Office (NMO) have recently issued a joint letter setting out issues associated with when the meter behaves unexpectedly and expectations on industry parties. In addition, Ofgem published a domestic consumer factsheet to answer questions and assist consumers if they suspect their meter is behaving unexpectedly.

 

 

Feed in tariffs

A feed in tariff is money you get for generating green energy at home. You may be entitled to a feed in tariff if you have installed things like solar panels or ground source heat pumps.

Where do I buy the kit to generate electricity?

There are a number of firms which install generation equipment. Your electricity supplier may be able to help or you could try other companies – you’ll find an accredited list of suppliers at the Microgeneration Certification Scheme website.

How do I get paid?

You get paid for every unit of electricity you generate even if you don’t use it all. Anything you don’t need goes into your local electricity distribution network.

Your panels or pumps usually come fitted with an separate electricity meter to tell you how much energy you have generated. This lets you claim the money you are due. It does not replace the meter that measures how much electricity you have used.

Will I still have energy bills?

Solar panels and ground source heat pumps will meet some of your energy needs but probably not all. You are unlikely to be self-sufficient but you will be using much less energy. How much less will depend on your property, the energy your use and the equipment you put in.

What do I do if things go wrong with my electricity meter?

Sometimes existing meters behave oddly when new generating equipment is first installed. If this happens contact your electricity supplier and they will come to fix the meter.

If you think your new generating equipment is not working properly – or if your income and savings aren’t what you were promised – you need to talk to the company which installed the kit.

Installing new generation equipment can make big changes to your bills. If you are unsure about your regular energy bills contact your retailer and they will be able to help.

Code of Practice for Accurate Bills

The code of practice for accurate bills  (the ‘billing code’) represents a series of voluntary commitments developed to go beyond the supplier licence conditions and applies to domestic customers only.

As of 1 May 2018, the 12 month back-billing rule, where a supplier is at fault (previously clause 5) has become a supplier license condition and is therefore no longer apart of the billing code. Energy UK is currently assessing potential new areas of focus for the code to ensure it is fully up to date.

The billing code aims to drive improved standards of performance and to provide a common framework around which energy suppliers can build better processes and controls for billing their customers.

This is an important code particularly as over 200 million energy bills are sent to customers every year. The six members of the billing code - British Gas (including Scottish Gas), E.O.N., EDF Energy, npower, ScottishPower and SSE -  recognise that better, clearer information is needed to ensure consumer trust.

Please note that Energy UK does not provide advice on billing issues. You should contact your energy supplier. For more information click here. If your issue remains unresolved, you can call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or the Energy Ombudsman on 0330 440 1624.

Members of the billing code are independently and rigorously audited on an annual basis to ensure compliance against four commitment areas:

1. Switching
2. Meter reading
3. Energy bills and statements
4. Payment and refunds

This code sets out the minimum standards members must follow, as well as the responsabilities of all energy suppliers.

Scenarios document

The billing code scenarios are a collection of frequently asked questions which many customers have about their energy bills and the billing code.  We have developed the scenarios with input from the billing code members, which are designed to explain the specific areas of the billing code.

Please note that Energy UK doesn’t not provide advice on billing issues. You should contact your energy supplier. For more information click here.

Billing code audit results

Customers can have greater confidence in the accuracy of their energy bills as a result of the voluntary industry billing code.

Read the full results of the Billing Code audit for 2018.
Read the full results of the Billing Code audit for 2017.
Read the full results for the Billing Code audits for 2015 and 2016.

Publications

Energy industry codes

Over 200 million energy bills are sent to households every year. Energy companies' work to make sure their dealings with customers go smoothly.

To help improve customer services, companies have signed up to the Code of Practice for Accurate Bills, which sets out what domestic customers can expect from their energy company.

Find out more about the Code of Practice for Accurate Bills.

How to make a complaint

Energy suppliers take complaints seriously. Suppliers always work to ensure customers are treated fairly, They are committed to providing the customer with better service in a clear and simple way.

Sometimes, things can go wrong with customer service or the accuracy of customers’ bills and/or statements. When things do go wrong, the supplier will do its best to put things right as quick as possible.

If you need to make a complaint, please contact your energy supplier first. When contacting them, make sure that you have details of meter readings, and any relevant information from your bill, so that your query can be dealt with more easily.

Suppliers will make every effort to resolve a complaint within a few days of receiving it. However, in some cases it can take longer to resolve a complaint and energy suppliers have set a time limit of eight weeks to deal with your complaint.

Citizens Advice consumer service

Citizens Advice Consumer Service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on a range of energy issues. The Citizens Advice Consumer Service can be contacted on 03454 04 05 06 or you can visit their website.

Vulnerable customers (such as those dealing with disconnection or who are unable to deal with an energy complaint due to their personal circumstances), or those who have a complex complaint and need extra assistance, will be referred to the Extra Help Unit. The Extra Help Unit has a team of specialist case workers who will investigate an issue and negotiate a resolution on behalf of a consumer.

Energy Ombudsman

If your energy supplier hasn’t settled your complaint after eight weeks, you can contact the Energy Ombudsman which is a free, independent and impartial service for domestic and micro business complaints.

The Energy Ombudsman can be contacted on 0330 440 1624 or you can visit their website.

Why are smart meters a good idea?

Smart meters are a much needed modernisation of the energy industry infrastructure that was last upgraded in the 1970s. Both energy suppliers and consumers benefit from its introduction.

The government impact assessment states that consumers benefit the most from the smart meter roll-out, in particular from being able to use accurate consumption information to lower energy usage. Other benefits include accurate billing and no waiting in for the meter reader.

Suppliers also benefit as a result of the accurate information a smart meter provides. This helps them improve the standard of service that they offer and personalise communications through better understanding customers’ energy use.

How much will the smart meter roll-out cost me?

You won’t be charged to have your meters replaced.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change impact assessment puts the cost of the whole rollout at £12.1 billion. However, the benefits will be substantial: more than £6.7 billion over and above the cost of roll-out.

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