Looking back on this year, one of the key themes that can be drawn out of the regulatory action taken by Ofgem is the focus on protecting the most vulnerable consumers. Whilst this has always been a priority for the regulator, being weaved into its statutory duties and the licences of all domestic suppliers, there have been clear changes made over the course of the year to tighten the requirements around treatment of vulnerable customers.
One of the Market Compliance Reviews conducted in 2022 focused on the treatment of vulnerable customers by suppliers, with a handful being identified as having moderate to severe weaknesses within their processes. Ofgem subsequently has implemented changes around involuntary prepayment meter installations and attempts to boost customer service standards across suppliers through new requirements on suppliers.
Outside of the actions taken by Ofgem, other parties across the industry have been taking proactive steps to determine what can be done to assist customers that are in vulnerable situations with an explicit focus on improvements to the Priorities Service Register and its use.
In the non-domestic sector, much regulatory focus has been placed on Third-Party Intermediaries (TPIs), with the finalised voluntary Code of Practice for TPIs having recently been published. Looking to the future, there’s an upcoming focus on the Change of Tenancy process in tandem with Ofgem’s wider work on the non-domestic market review, aiming to not only simplify and standardise the process across the non-domestic industry but also reduce the risk of fraud and bad debt.
Ofgem’s concerns around the treatment of smaller non-domestic customers has been evident. It is imperative that RECCo and other industry bodies maintain close engagement with the suppliers who will have to manage these requirements daily, and to ensure the processes being introduced consider all the necessary factors and the complexity of the market. There is a lot to consider, and much of the difficulty will rest in deciding the thresholds for where additional support should be provided, but positive steps are being taken nonetheless.
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