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Ofgem unveils stricter energy supplier standards: our take on the changes

While it’s a positive step that Ofgem acknowledges the need for stricter consumer standards, there’s more that must be done.

Ofgem has today announced new customer services standards for energy suppliers. Here’s our response…

It’s good to see Ofgem’s implementation and strengthening of the rules to protect consumers in vulnerable circumstances such as making it easier to contact your supplier if you’re in debt or on a repayment plan. But it’s unclear whether the new standards will go far enough in practice.

Smoother processes to resolve problems

We hope the guidance for energy suppliers to ‘have processes to prioritise enquiries from representatives contacting them on behalf of domestic customers in vulnerable situations’ will translate into tangible improvements, facilitating smoother processes for our CSE energy advisors.

Currently, CSE’s advisors spend an absurd amount of time on hold when attempting to speak to energy companies in order to resolve problems for the people we support. Our advisors also experience difficulty in establishing that they have the customer’s consent. Because of this, they find themselves stuck in interminable customer service loops. We know this time could be better spent helping even more clients on our advice line or through face-to-face support.

Better support needed

Overall, we still need to see better support for non-English speakers and a stronger commitment to ‘defined opening times’. Something CSE highlighted when we responded to Ofgem’s consultation on this back in the summer.

In addition, other key issues and outcomes from our consultation response included:

Energy suppliers should be available via contact methods that meet customer needs.

Energy suppliers should be open at times that meet customer needs.

Energy suppliers should be contactable in a way that is free for customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills.

Whether or not we see substantial changes in supplier practices as a result of these new Ofgem standards remains to be seen. These changes take effect from 14 December and we’ll be watching closely to assess improvements.

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