Ofgem set out expectations for suppliers during coronavirus

15 April 2020   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Regulator writes to energy suppliers reminding them of their obligations during Covid-19 and setting pragmatic response to increased demands on providers.

Ofgem confirm suppliers must maintain a focus on treating customers fairly during the coronavirus crisis and prioritising vulnerable customers.

This includes continuing essential and emergency visits to properties as well as supporting those who may be financially struggling due to Covid-19.

They also stated they expect suppliers to meet regulatory requirements wherever possible, including the switching standards due to come into force from 1 May.

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Risk management

Ofgem stress that energy suppliers must actively take steps to minimise risks to customers, especially vulnerable customers.

In practice, this means suppliers must be proactive in identifying customers at risk of going off supply through faults, along with safety risks from supply equipment.

The guidance also explicitly mentions risks posed to vulnerable customers, three weeks after emergency measures from the Government warned suppliers to treat vulnerable customers fairly and suspend disconnections of credit meters until further notice.

Ofgem also set out their expectations for property visits by pointing out that essential and emergency work within homes must still go ahead to ensure customers' energy supplies are maintained and they remain connected to the network.

However, they conceded suppliers would be deprioritising other reasons for property visits including the collection of meter readings and non-essential smart meter installations. They also acknowledged the capacity of energy companies may alter if their workforce is affected by Covid-19.

Payments and complaints

Ofgem's letter to suppliers reiterates Government guidance on supporting customers who may struggle to pay their energy bills due to coronavirus, stating they do not expect customers to be disconnected due to debt.

They do admit, though, that disconnections due to safety issues and point out that suppliers must put extra support in place if customers are affected by this. They prompted companies to signpost the financial support offered by the Government to help customers understand their financial options.

On receiving customer complaints, Ofgem recognise more customers than usual will be contacting suppliers and this will also be compounded by staff absences related to Covid-19.

They still expect energy companies to maintain multiple channels for customers to contact them such as phone, email and social media, but they expect suppliers to prioritise urgent cases and especially those involving vulnerable customers.

Ofgem has delayed the deadlines for companies to submit various regulatory reports including quarterly complaints figures for Q1 2020. Suppliers must now submit those before the end of July 2020.


In light of Ofcom's confirmation last week that they would be taking a pragmatic approach to companies meeting their obligations during the coronavirus crisis, Ofgem have now said much the same thing.

So, the industry's guaranteed standards on switching and compensation due to come into force on 1 May will still be implemented and suppliers will be expected to work towards them wherever possible, as well as following other standards enshrined in Ofgem's regulatory guidelines.

However, they are pragmatic about the pressures suppliers are under and, while they request companies record any breaches of the standards, they acknowledge the exceptional circumstances caused by Government guidance and social isolation measures.

Energy suppliers must clearly explain to customers why they are not meeting the guaranteed standards and why, for example, appointments are cancelled or postponed.

Finally, Ofgem encourage all suppliers to remain transparent during these difficult times and make use of the self-reporting mechanisms to highlight any risks or issues.

They say they will not take action against suppliers who have made open and transparent decisions to support their customers in line with this new guidance, as long as those decisions were made with the customers' immediate interests in mind.

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