Energy suppliers must do more to help vulnerable customers this winter, the industry regulator has said, with “serious weaknesses” found in the practice of five suppliers.
Ofgem said failures included customers missing out on free gas safety checks, vulnerable customers not being offered the support they needed and ensuring those on prepaid meters were identified and cared for. .
Although some good practices have been identified, the 17 suppliers still need to make improvements.
Good Energy, Outfox, SO Energy, TruEnergy and Utilita were rated the worst by Ofgem.
Serious weaknesses mean that it “either found that a significant proportion of the vendor’s processes and policies were missing or inadequate, or that their data indicated they were not performing well for consumers”.
Moderate weaknesses were seen in E (gas and electricity), Ecotricity, Green Energy UK, Octopus and Shell.
This means that the supplier “did not have some of the policies or processes in place that we expected, or that the training and guidance available to their staff was not at the level that we felt was necessary”.
“There is still a lot to do”
“We may also have found poor performance data,” added Ofgem.
Minor weaknesses were identified in British Gas, Bulb, EDF, E.ON, Ovo, Scottish Power and Utility Warehouse. This means Ofgem found no evidence of significant concern.
Neil Lawrence, retail director at Ofgem, said: “From eligible customers who are not given free gas safety checks to businesses not identifying vulnerable customers to be offered obvious support in the register of priority services, this in-depth review has highlighted that providers need to do more to support consumers.
“We welcome the cooperation from suppliers and the steps taken so far, and while we are seeing very good practice in some parts of the industry, we can see that there is still more to be done.
“Most providers take protecting vulnerable customers seriously, and several good initiatives to support customers have been launched recently.”
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“While it is encouraging to see the commitment to this market compliance review, with some improvement actions already underway, we have seen a number of deficiencies across the board that urgently need to be addressed. “, added Mr. Lawrence.
“It will be a very difficult winter for everyone, and customers need to be sure they are getting the help and support they need.
“My message to vendors today is simple – be proactive. Help your customers know what support is available, then provide it.”
Ofgem said suppliers have engaged positively with the process and, since receiving their indicative scores in October, are taking swift action to make the necessary improvements.