Energy UK has today published its 2022 Vulnerability Commitment Good Practice guide, which highlights examples of how energy suppliers are looking to supporting vulnerable customers.
The Vulnerability Commitment was launched by Energy UK in 2020 as a voluntary industry initiative under which suppliers who signed up to the scheme committed to improving the support they provide to vulnerable customers, over and above existing licence requirements. 12 suppliers serving more than 80% of British homes have been signatories during 2022.
Signatories are independently assessed on their performance by an expert panel and today’s guide looks at good practice under three key themes: identification of vulnerable customers; support for vulnerable customers and training for staff.
Initiatives highlighted include: suppliers using home visits as well as real time data on usage or missed payments to proactively contact vulnerable customers; allowing customers to upload Priority Services Register (PSR) details to their account so they can easily update their supplier on their circumstances; suppliers partnering with charities to provide financial support and advice for their customers; and training frontline staff to identify and provide specialised support for customers facing particular difficulties.
Steve Crabb, Independent Chair of the Vulnerability Commitment, said:
“The Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment doesn’t police a minimum safety net for customers – it pushes suppliers to reflect on what they do and constantly work to do it better. This year many suppliers told us they had tried out new initiatives as a result of reading about what other suppliers were doing in last year’s report – we hope this year’s report will achieve the same.”
Three energy suppliers have been recognised for initiatives in relation to the three key themes:
- Identification of vulnerable customers: EDF was recognised for its use of multiple sources of data that allowed it to pinpoint people who find themselves in a vulnerable situation due to the cost-of-living crisis and provide them with tailored support packages.
- Payment support. British Gas was recognised for the British Gas Energy Trust (BGET) – an independent charity funded solely by British Gas but open to customers of any supplier. Since Winter 2021, £25 million has been given to the initiative. This year, British Gas also committed to donating 10% of its operating profits to the Trust for the duration of the energy crisis.
- Frontline staff training: OVO Energy was recognised for the creation of their “Vulnerability Academy”, which offers specific training and guidance for customer-facing teams to help them recognise, record and best support vulnerable customers. This training included a bespoke Cost-of-Living training by the Money Advice Trust, as well as mental health support and a fraud awareness course.
Notes to editors
- Current signatories to the Vulnerability Commitment are: British Gas, Bulb, E, Ecotricity, EDF, Good Energy, Octopus Energy, Outfox the Market, OVO Energy, Scottish Power, So Energy and Utility Warehouse.
- Steve Crabb is a specialist in consumer strategy and policy, with a particular focus on the needs of customers in vulnerable circumstances, and on the energy and water industries. He started his career as a business journalist, editing the multi-award winning ‘People Management’ magazine from 2000 to 2008 and being recognized by the British Society of Magazine Editors as ‘editor of the year’ in 2008. He went on to hold senior roles in charities including the Alzheimer’s Society and the British Lung Foundation before setting up the first dedicated consumer vulnerability team at a global energy supplier and services company, where his consumer vulnerability and corporate citizenship remit covered the UK, Ireland and North America. He was commissioned by the Prime Minister’s dementia challenge group to create best practice guidance on the care of vulnerable older customers for the whole of the utilities sector and served for three years in a personal capacity on Ofgem’s sustainable development advisory group. In 2020 he helped the water regulator Ofwat develop its future thinking on key consumer strategy issues including vulnerability. He has campaigned against ageism and other forms of discrimination in the workplace, and for the better treatment of people living with dementia and mental health challenges. He is a member of the advisory panel of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.
- Energy UK is the trade association for the energy industry with over 100 members – from established FTSE 100 companies right through to new, growing suppliers, generators and service providers across energy, transport, heat and technology. Our members deliver nearly 80% of the UK’s power generation and over 95% of the energy supply for 28 million UK homes as well as businesses. The sector invests £13bn annually and delivers nearly £30bn in gross value – on top of the nearly £100bn in economic activity through its supply chain and interaction with other sectors. The energy industry is key to delivering growth and plans to invest £100bn over the course of this decade in new energy sources. The energy sector supports 700,000 jobs in every corner of the country. Energy UK plays a key role in ensuring we attract and retain a diverse workforce. In addition to our Young Energy Professionals Forum, which has over 2,000 members representing over 350 organisations, we are a founding member of TIDE, an industry-wide taskforce to tackle Inclusion and Diversity across energy.