Ofgem has announced that they will provide more financial help and support for prepayment customers and those struggling to pay their energy bills.
When the UK went into lockdown the UK’s energy suppliers voluntarily agreed to put measures in place, like being able to nominate a third-party to go and top up your prepayment card if you’re self-isolating, to ensure these kinds of customers remain supplied with energy.
The industry regulator now wants to offer more permanent protection. Even prior to coronavirus they were concerned about the growing number of prepayment customers, who are also often classed as vulnerable, that go without energy after their credit runs out.
Under Ofgem’s new proposals:
- Suppliers must provide emergency and friendly hours credit to prepayment customers, so extra credit when their meter is about to run out to tide them over until they’re able to top up.
- Those prepayment customers who fall into the vulnerable category will be able to receive credit while they work out another way to pay. For example, somebody who is unable to go out and top up due to a disability.
- Suppliers will set repayment rates based on the customer’s ability to repay and keep an eye on the arrangement to make sure it’s still viable.
Many suppliers do already offer help to vulnerable and prepayment customers, for example offering emergency credit between £5 and £20, but the introduction of these proposals will help to make it standard across the industry.
“It is always best for customers to keep up with their energy bills if they can. But at this time when many may face financial hardship, these proposals mean those who are struggling to keep up are assured of some breathing space,” said Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive of Ofgem.