Emergency measures to help vulnerable energy customers

20 March 2020   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Four million pre-payment customers will receive help from energy suppliers if they cannot get out to top up their meters.

All home energy suppliers in the UK have signed up to the measures which came into force immediately.

Customers can now speak to their energy supplier about a range of options to keep their meters topped up during the Covid-19 crisis.

In other news, small energy supplier Gnergy has collapsed, with Ofgem's safety net procedures coming into force.

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Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com

Vulnerable energy customers

The emergency measures announced by the Government mean the UK's four million energy customers with pre-payment meters will be safe from energy supply disruption until the outbreak is under control.

Options to help customers cope include pre-loaded top-up cards being sent through the post or having a discretionary fund added to their credit account. Customers may also be able to nominate a third-party to help them add credit to their accounts.

In addition, all energy customers in financial difficulties due to Covid-19 will be protected from further harm by the disconnection of credit meters being completely suspended.

Debt repayment plans and other charges may be reassessed by suppliers in consultation with affected customers.

Any customer worried about their ability to top-up their pre-payment meter or, more generally, are concerned about their ability to pay upcoming bills should contact their supplier directly.

It's worth noting the helplines for many suppliers are experiencing heavy traffic, so customers at most risk are likely to be given priority.

Gnergy collapse

In separate energy news, small supplier Gnergy has collapsed. Their 9,000 domestic energy customers have been protected by Ofgem's safety net and a Supplier of Last Resort (SoLR) will be appointed in due course.

All Gnergy customers should wait until a new supplier has been appointed and contacted them before switching away to avoid confusion. However, they are advised to take meter readings immediately to help the transition go smoothly.

Gnergy's collapse was somewhat expected since Ofgem issued them with a final order in January for failing to make over £650,000 in Renewables Obligation (RO) payments.

At the time, the supplier criticised Ofgem for issuing the order when Christmas had delayed the transfer of funds and complaining that unnecessary negative publicity had been created.

Gnergy were one of the four suppliers named by Ofgem back in October 2019 as expected to miss the RO late payment deadline. Toto Energy were also named and subsequently collapsed just a few weeks later.

Other sectors during Covid-19

All sectors are responding to the Covid-19 outbreak, with many companies and organisations announcing the measures they're taking to help their customers.

The Government has provided information on the insurance sector and how the virus could impact travel, home and car insurance. Read this article to find out more.

Communications and entertainment providers are also responding to the outbreak by reassuring customers of the resilience of the networks and offering extra services.

Sky has announced a raft of measures including free Sky Go Extra and free UK calls to landlines until the end of April, while Virgin Mobile customers are receiving unlimited minutes to landlines and mobiles from Monday 23 March, along with a 10GB data boost.

BT has since announced a range of initiatives to help vulnerable customers including removing out-of-bundle charges for critical services such as landline and mobile calls while placing a £5 monthly cap on such out-of-bundle usage. This should allow customers to make essential calls.

They have also removed usage caps on their broadband plans with data limits, and have committed to allowing access to NHS online and 111 telephone services for BT Mobile customers whether customers have any data allowance remaining or not.


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