As of the 15th December 2020, Ofgem’s new rules which aim to support customers who may be experiencing difficulty in paying their energy bills, come into force.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is seeing a significant rise in people struggling to manage their finances, with Citizen’s Advice estimating in September that 6 million people had already fallen behind with household bills and many more were predicted to follow.
Energy supply is an essential service and Ofgem want to be sure that, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic, customers are not worried about being able to heat their homes and protect their health in that manner. Back in March this year, suppliers voluntarily agreed to help support vulnerable customers through the pandemic, however, Ofgem’s new rulings now make this a requirement.
In respect of pre-payment customers, to try and reduce the number of people who may go without energy, suppliers will need to offer emergency credit to those who find it difficult to top up due to self-isolation, mobility issues, or a temporary inability to pay. Households deemed as vulnerable will also be offered extra pre-payment credit, to allow them time to make payment arrangements.
It is extremely important that all customers remember that no supplier is offering ‘free energy’. The measures that have been put in place are a temporary solution to an immediate problem, but, if not paid for at the time, any energy used will need to be paid for further down the line.
Although a number of suppliers already have such arrangements in place, Ofgem have now also made it a formal license requirement that they should place customers who are identified as in debt to their supplier on realistic repayment plans. As a part of this, they should be able provide appropriate credit management policies and make proactive contact with customers if they believe they may be experiencing difficulties.
Customers who are struggling to pay their bills have been advised to contact their supplier at the earliest opportunity.