Responding to today’s letter from the Business Secretary about customer support, Energy UK’s chief executive, Emma Pinchbeck said:
“Suppliers have increased the support they provide to customers over the winter through millions of pounds of direct financial assistance as well as offering payment holidays, restructured payment plans and emergency credit while also partnering with charities and consumer advice groups to further support customers in need. In addition, 12 of the largest suppliers have voluntarily committed to doing more to identify and support their most vulnerable customers over and above existing requirements.
“The increase in energy bills over the past year and the wider cost of living crisis means there are more customers needing more help than ever before and despite the Government-backed support schemes, the fundamental problem is that millions of people are still struggling to afford their bills.
“Suppliers are already required to have exhausted all other options before installing a prepayment meter by warrant – only after repeated unsuccessful attempts to contact the customer to discuss repayment options and offer support and after checks to ensure they do not go ahead when customers are in the most vulnerable situations.
“Suppliers also have a duty to manage debt and to try and prevent customers falling further into arrears. If the option to install a prepayment meter – after exhausting other options – is removed, then it needs to be acknowledged that this will lead to a significant increase in bad debt, which has already been rising steeply in recent months, and is ultimately recouped from customer bills.
“We have been discussing energy suppliers’ growing concerns about customer debt with Ministers, the regulator and consumer groups. We will continue to work with them to see what more can be done do to support vulnerable customers. Any measures and their consequences must be properly and honestly assessed to make sure that they will genuinely protect the interests of customers, especially in the context of the cost-of living-crisis.”
For more details on the support offered by individual energy suppliers: https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/index.php/energy-industry/support-for-winter/8310-supplier-support.html