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Ofgem announces strategy to tackle consumer vulnerability

The plan includes initiatives aimed at increasing the uptake of free services for the most vulnerable consumers

ofgem logoA report unveiled today by Ofgem details the programme put in place to improve how the energy industry supports vulnerable customers.

With fewer than one in ten energy consumers able to name a single Priority Service Register (PSR) service, the strategy aims to raise awareness and take-up, but also examine whether the nature of services on offer needs to be modified. Current PSR services include ‘talking bills’, priority support in case of emergency and meter moves to ensure accessibility.

Redefining vulnerable consumers

The new approach takes a broad view of vulnerability and recognises the potential complexity of individual situations. Vulnerable consumers are not purely defined in terms of personal characteristics but also changing personal circumstances and market conditions. Ofgem plans to partner with a number of consumer organisations along with energy suppliers and distribution companies to put together a plan tailored to support those most vulnerable.

Sarah Harrison, Senior Partner, Sustainable Development, said: “Ofgem’s actions to make the energy market work for consumers bite hardest when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable in society. Today we are putting in place a wide-ranging new strategy, with a practical and focused way of identifying and tackling vulnerability and an action plan to back this up.”

Creating fairer markets

Speaking on the scheme, Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of Consumer Futures, said: “We welcome this valuable strategy. We look forward to working closely with Ofgem on protecting people in vulnerable situations and building on joint work already done by our organisations.

“Our recent report with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation illustrates how the market can make people on lower incomes pay more for essential goods and services. If essential markets do not deliver accessible and affordable services to consumers on low incomes, then regulators, working with governments, need to intervene to make markets fairer. Ofgem’s strategy is a good basis for taking a focused approach to this stubborn issue.”

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