Cost of living: Energy suppliers failing weak prospects – Ofgem

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By. Kevin Peachey
Cost of dwelling correspondent

Energy suppliers have been failing weak customers, the sector’s watchdog has said, as individuals face a chilly and expensive winter

Regulator. Ofgem has ordered improvements after it discovered difficulties at all 17 companies as part of a review

Among. its findings have been examples of companies setting debt repayments so high that prospects decided not to top-up their pre-payment meters

But. some of the suppliers hit again at Ofgem’s “incomplete” review

Consumer. teams described the regulator’s report as “hugely concerning” at a time when individuals have been being hit by expenses double the level of last winter amid the soaring fee of living

Ofgem. stated some of the worst examples of poor perform included suppliers failing to read the meters of prospects who could not do so themselves.

It additionally discovered that some weak prospects have been unable to contact their supplier to major up their meter or to request help credit

In. some cases, debt reimbursement charges have been set so high that weak prospects self-disconnected – in different words, did not top-up their prepayment meter when the credit score ran out

Five. suppliers – Good Energy, Outfox, So Energy, Tru Energy and Utilita – have been discovered to have “severe weaknesses”, which prompted a powerful response from some of the firms

“Moderate. weaknesses” have been discovered at suppliers E (Gas & Electricity), Ecotricity, Green Energy UK, Octopus and Shell.

Ofgem stated that seven others had shown minor weaknesses, together with British Gas, Bulb, EDF, EON,. Ovo, Scottish Power and Utility Warehouse

Neil. Lawrence, Ofgem’s director of retail. stated “most suppliers” took their responsibility to safeguard weak prospects critically and added companies had launched new initiatives – together with committed phone lines

But. he added: “We’ve seen a quantity of failings across the board which need to be urgently addressed

“It’s. going to be a very challenging winter for everybody and prospects should be convinced they are getting the aid and help they need”

Almost. seventy four. million individuals in Britain use prepayment meters for their energy

It is Ofgem’s third evaluate into various elements of suppliers’ medical care of prospects. The first demanded motion on soaring. direct debit demands and the second discovered extra aid was needed on payment. plans for those struggling to pay

This. latest evaluate required suppliers to give facts about how they identified and stored data of prospects in a weak situation, and even if they have been added to a priority register for aid.

Suppliers additionally gave info about free fuel safe practices checks and weak prepayment meter customers

All. 17 suppliers which submitted knowledge to the regulator have been told they had to boost their practices

Ofgem. stated that in general, there have been hazards that individuals have been not identified as weak and given the help they have been entitled to

But. questions have been raised for the regulator itself, which has been accused of being asleep at the wheel when expenses are soaring and suppliers failing

In. response, it stated it had moved to proactive methods, instead than ready for points to be reported

Suppliers. hit back

To aid households with bigger bills, the authorities introduced a cap to limited price rises, meaning a typical residence pays £2,500 a year for fuel and electricity. However, the cap is on the unit price of energy, so those with bigger usage will pay more

This. cap has been extended for 12 months from April, however will be at a bigger level, so a typical family will pay £3,000 a year. Various cost-of-living payments have been introduced to safeguard the extra vulnerable, however charities and consumer teams have warned that many will still face a especially robust time this winter.

Rocio Concha, from consumer group Which?, stated suppliers needed to up their game to aid individuals on the lowest incomes

“It. is massively concerning to see Ofgem has discovered that so many energy companies are falling short on the help they provide to their most weak customers,” she added

However,. Energy UK, which represents suppliers, stated many companies had gone beyond what they have been required to do by the regulator

“Identifying. and supporting weak prospects is already a major priority,” stated Dhara Vyas, director of advocacy at Energy UK

“Our. members have responded swiftly to Ofgem’s evaluate – together with offering additional documentation to reveal the place processes have been already in place, and will continue to look at all the ways they can make yes individuals get the aid and help they need”

Some. of the suppliers named as having the biggest difficulties reacted strongly to Ofgem’s report

Simon. Oscroft, co-founder of So Energy, said: “Over the course of the last months and weeks, we have provided Ofgem with wide additional info related to this evaluate and we are upset that Ofgem has proceeded on the basis of incomplete information, and in a manner that would now trigger weak prospects unnecessary concern”

A. spokesman for Utilita said: “Ofgem’s report does not characterize the place we are as a company today, nor does it acknowledge the significant progress we have made – and are making – since its initial evaluation in early summer”

The. BBC has contacted Good Energy, Outfox and Tru Energy for comment

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