Energy suppliers have been told by the authors of an independent report that they should be doing more to support their most vulnerable customers.
The Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances has published an in-depth report looking at what energy companies and the wider industry should be doing to help people who struggle to pay their energy bills or to maintain their supplies of gas and electricity for other reasons.
Among the recommendations made by the commission is that vulnerable customers should be helped to make sure they can afford their energy bills and given the opportunity to make use of smart metering systems.
Another issue raised in the report is that not everyone is able to communicate properly with their energy suppliers and the commission wants to see more action taken to bridge any communication gaps that can be identified.
The commission also wants to see the creation of an independently monitored code of conduct that helps to ensure that every energy customer throughout the UK can access a minimum standard of service from their supplier, regardless of who that happens to be or where they live.
Lord Whitty, who chaired the commission and helped create the report, has described a safe and reliable energy supply as a “fundamental need” for everyone and noted that problems with those supplies can be a significant source of “stress and anxiety”.
“Nobody likes to think of themselves as ‘vulnerable’ but any one of us could become vulnerable in a heartbeat,” he said.
“Vulnerability and the need for support is not just a question of customers struggling to pay bills, but of individuals and households facing a wide range of difficulties – any of which can make the requirements of day-to-day living a challenge.”
Reflecting on the findings of his own commission’s report, Lord Whitty wrote: “It can’t be right that in such a highly regulated industry, it can be a matter of chance how – or if – you get the support required.
“That’s why our recommendations seek to make sure there is a consistent level of support across all suppliers and for all customers.”
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