Following stakeholder engagement throughout last year, Ofgem’s reforms to domestic customer-supplier communications will be effective from 11 February 2019.
In less than two weeks’ time, suppliers are expected to be delivering proactive approaches to engaging consumers in accordance with five enforceable principles set out under four new supply licence conditions. The new rules include a requirement for suppliers to encourage and enable consumers to continue to make informed tariff choices and to manage costs and consumption. There is a specific principle on suppliers informing customers so that they can switch tariff or supplier. Regarding the latter, suppliers must also explain that consumers may benefit, including financially, from doing so.
Having decided to remove the requirement for suppliers to send annual statements, energy providers must think about how they can convey the information contained within them at identifiable points throughout a year. The concept of Key Prompt Points has come about through Ofgem’s new rules, with the regulator providing examples of such moments in time such as at the end of a fixed-term contract and when prices are being increased. Still, the onus is very much on suppliers to identify further opportunities to engage with their customers and provide them with tailored or targeted information in a range of different situations.
Protecting consumers in vulnerable situations is a large part of Ofgem’s remit. It is enshrined in licence condition 0 or the Standards of Conduct and the regulator’s Consumer Vulnerability Strategy. Suppliers are expected to act on information they have access to such as a customer falling into arrears, in and out of debt, consistently using emergency credit on a prepayment meter or substantial deviations in how much energy a customer is – or isn’t – consuming. While suppliers are already required to identify customers in a vulnerable situation, they must ensure they act on this information as and when it comes to light; this includes customers self-reporting vulnerabilities.
In adhering to the new requirements, whether that is in relation to engaging consumer, providing customers with the right information at the right time, suppliers must take a consumer’s characteristics and features of their current tariff into account, and where appropriate, the consumer’s preferences.
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