Leicester experts welcome Ofgem’s new strategy for helping vulnerable energy consumers

Posted by er134 at Jul 16, 2013 11:40 AM |
Research by University of Leicester law academics has helped Ofgem develop its new consumer vulnerability strategy

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 16 July 2013

Leicester law experts have helped energy regulator Ofgem develop a new strategy to improve the way the energy industry identifies and tackles consumer vulnerability.

Professor Cosmo Graham, Director of the Centre for Consumers and Essential Services at the University of Leicester, said: "This is an important step forward for Ofgem and for energy consumers, and we urge the energy companies to respond positively.

"Having worked with the energy regulator on the development of this strategy, we commend this approach to regulators in other sectors that provide services which are essential for people's lives."

Ofgem’s new approach recognises that vulnerability can be complex and may arise for many different reasons.

Vulnerability is more than a list of personal characteristics, as both personal circumstances and factors in the market can affect consumer vulnerability.

Ofgem’s first consumer vulnerability work plan sets out how the regulator aims to deliver the strategy.

This year’s plan includes a review of free services available to consumers via the Priority Service Register, services such as ‘talking bills’, priority support in emergencies, and meter moves to ensure they are accessible.

Research commissioned by Ofgem shows that currently fewer than one in ten (9 per cent) of all energy customers are able to name at least one PSR service.

The review will look not only at how to increase awareness and take-up, but also at whether the scope of services available needs to be changed.

Ofgem drew from research by the University’s Centre for Consumers and Essential Services, within the School of Law, while drawing up the strategy.

The Centre’s reports on Too many hurdles: information and advice barriers in the energy market and Consumer Vulnerability: What's in a name? helped inform the regulator’s new strategy.

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.

“A key point of our strategy is that it isn’t just consumers’ characteristics that make them vulnerable, but rather how these interact with the market. We want to drill down to the essence of what puts people in vulnerable situations, using this understanding to guide our own actions and our expectations of the companies we regulate. We plan to do this in partnership with a wide range of consumer and community based organisations, as well as with energy suppliers and distribution companies.”

Ends

Notes:

Please contact Professor Cosmo Graham at: cosmo.graham@le.ac.uk

Ofgem’s Consumer Vulnerability Strategy:

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Sustainability/SocAction/Documents1/Consumer%20vulnerability%20strategy.pdf

Ofgem research into the Priority Services Register and non financial support for vulnerable energy consumers:

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Sustainability/SocAction/Documents1/Quant%20PSR%20research%20MORI%20for%20consumer%20vulnerability%20strategy%20June%202013.pdf

University of Leicester’s Centre for Consumers and Essential Services publications: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/law/research/cces/publications

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