Ofgem will be updating its consumer vulnerability strategy in the early summer, the regulator’s chair has announced.
Martin Cave, delivering the keynote speech at Citizens Advice’s “Consumers at the heart of the future energy system” conference on Tuesday (23 April), said that Ofgem will be publishing the second iteration of its consumer vulnerability strategy in “early summer”.
The refresh will set the regulator’s approach to consumer vulnerability issues until 2025.
It will be the first time that the strategy has been updated since it was first published in 2013.
In his speech, Cave set out the five key themes that the strategy should address.
- Improving identification of vulnerability and smarter use of data;
- Supporting those struggling with their bills;
- Improving customer service;
- Encouraging positive and inclusive innovation; and
- Working with partners, such as government, other regulators and consumer groups, to maximise Ofgem’s impacts.
He praised efforts by energy companies to help people with specific issues of energy vulnerability, such as combining home gas inspection visits with a referral system to other agencies in order to help with specific problems.
But “unfortunately” Cave said that while welcome, these programmes are not “infinitely replicable”, meaning that Ofgem must provide a strategy to address issues of vulnerability.
He also said that Ofgem must become “more agile and quicker” at tackling situations where consumers suffer harm, or to remove blocks on the take up of innovations that can potentially benefit consumers.
And he confirmed that Ofgem is looking at introducing regulation of energy intermediaries.
In order to benefit from new intermediary services, like auto-switching, consumers must be able to understand the range of services on offer in the market so that they can make informed decisions about which ones to choose, he said: “Consumers will also need to have confidence that the choices they make will work for them – and that if something does goes wrong they will receive adequate protection.”
The conference was held on the same day Energy UK published its Future of Energy report in which it outlined proposals it believes will jump-start the transformation of the energy sector.
Read Energy UK’s chief executive Lawrence Slade’s exclusive opinion piece for Utility Week here.