Ofgem has launched a consultation to support prepayment customers and those who are struggling to pay their energy bills.
The energy regulator, which is concerned about increasing numbers of prepayment customers who go without energy after running out of credit on their meter since before Covid-19, says these proposals aim to reduce the number of prepayment customers temporarily going without energy.
It notes energy suppliers must offer some ‘breathing space’ to all customers, who are struggling to pay for their energy consumption. Measures include emergency and friendly hours credit which allow a fixed amount of credit to customers when their meter runs low or during weekends and public holidays.
Ofgem also suggests energy companies should offer additional credit for consumers in vulnerable circumstances – these who temporarily cannot afford to top up or get to their local shop to top up because of self-isolation or a mobility issue.
Ofgem is proposing setting repayment rates based on a customer’s ability to pay. Many suppliers already offer this support, but making it a formal licence requirement will ensure more customers are helped.
Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive of Ofgem, said: “I want to thank suppliers for their efforts during this crisis in keeping essential energy supplies flowing to customers, particularly those in vulnerable situations.
“These permanent protections will reduce the number of prepayment customers temporarily going without energy because they cannot afford to top up.
“It is always best for customers to keep up with their energy bills if they can. But at this time when many may face financial hardship, these proposals mean those who are struggling to keep up are assured of some breathing space.”