So, what’s being done to improve the energy market for society’s most vulnerable people?

by Tim Deakin Domestic Energy News

So, what’s being done to improve the energy market for society’s most vulnerable people?

The government regulator Ofgem plans to eradicate the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma for energy customers.

In recent years, the energy market has changed dramatically. Factors like decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitalisation are already changing the way consumers interact with their suppliers. And as part of a new initiative, Ofgem are showing that they are determined not to let the most vulnerable energy consumers in society get left behind.

Ofgem has recently announced the launch of its new Consumer Vulnerability Strategy (CVS 2025). This plans to make supporting vulnerable consumers a priority, looking ahead to 2025.

Vulnerability continues to be an issue for customers

The regulator’s first vulnerability strategy launched in 2013, and recognised that vulnerability varies from person to person. For some, it’s a long-lasting affliction as a result of being poor, disabled or mentally or physically ill. For others, vulnerability can be a temporary issue brought on by unemployment or bereavement.

The previous strategy focused on reducing the rate of disconnections due to debt, which saw many people without power for extended periods of time. The introduction of prepayment tariffs and price protection initiatives has also been found to improve outcomes for consumers in many cases.

However, more needs to be done, as there remain gaps in consumer support and some still face a monthly ‘heat or eat’ dilemma. People in debt remain particularly vulnerable, and Ofgem says they are looking at putting in place rules to ensure a customer’s ability to pay is thoroughly considered when arranging repayment plans and monitoring repayments.

The way we use energy is changing

In the next few years, many changes are set to be put in place to make the energy market for flexible, cost-reflective, competitive and dynamic. This will help make different tariffs more accessible for energy consumers, putting the power in their hands.

But while this does present opportunities, there is also the risk that certain issues will be exacerbated in the short term. For example, smart meters may place a greater expectation on consumers’ ability to engage with their energy use. It might also cause more consumers to inflict a self-ration on their energy use as they can see how much they are spending as they spend it.

Other energy-saving techniques, such as solar panels, might be difficult for some to access due to large upfront costs.

Empowering customers with a 5-point plan

Ofgem’s new plans aim to help these vulnerable customers by identifying and empowering them. They’ve outlined five key areas where they wish to create positive outcomes, including:

  • Improving identification of vulnerability and smart use of data
  • Supporting those struggling with bills
  • Driving significant improvements in customer service for vulnerable groups
  • Encouraging positive and inclusive innovation
  • Working with partners to tackle issues that impact multiple sectors

By calling on policy makers as well as industry and consumer champions, Ofgem is asking important questions on affordability and the role of different organisations in helping vulnerable consumers. With suppliers and stakeholders pulling their weight in the process, we could be looking forward to an all-round fairer energy market for current and future consumers.

Switching suppliers can help you find a tariff which is more suited to your needs. Start exploring energy deals today with help from The Energy Check. Click here to use our comparison service or get in touch with our team directly on 0800 031 48 00.

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