Consumer Vulnerability Strategy: Social obligations reporting (SOR)

Monitoring forms a key part of our work to protect the interests of consumers. In Supply Licence Condition 32, energy suppliers are required to provide us with information on their performance in relation to their social obligations. This includes a variety of information relevant to their dealings with domestic customers, including information about:

  • Payment methods
  • Levels of debt and debt repayments
  • Disconnection rates
  • Prepayment meters
  • Non-financial support for consumers in vulnerable situations.

This information enables us to understand how suppliers are meeting the needs of consumers in vulnerable situations. We also use this data to check that suppliers comply with our rules, to challenge poor performance, and to inform policy. 

Most of this information is provided by suppliers on an annual basis, although some is provided quarterly.

Using the suppliers' social obligations data, we publish an annual report on vulnerable consumers in the retail energy market. This report presents a view of the extent to which vulnerable consumers are experiencing positive outcomes in the market. Our 2017 report focuses on inclusive services, affordability and debt, and staying on supply.

We also publish data on social obligations as part of our work to make the energy market as transparent as possible.

Chart

Source: Vulnerability Report 2018.

Information correct as of: June 2018

This chart shows the average amount of debt owed by domestic customers who are in arrears, but do not yet have a debt repayment arrangement set up between Q3 2012 and Q4 2017. Improvements to how we collect information about average debt mean that it is not possible to make comparisons between data provided by suppliers before and after quarter three (July-Sept) 2012.

Policy Areas:

  • Domestic consumers

Data Table

Average debt level where there is no arrangement to repay the debt (arrears)

GasElectricity
Q3 2012445440
Q4 2012433439
Q1 2013452433
Q2 2013489450
Q3 2013490466
Q4 2013466460
Q1 2014472473
Q2 2014489495
Q3 2014484503
Q4 2014489495
Q1 2015512532
Q2 2015555561
Q3 2015554574
Q4 2015536585
Q1 2016558587
Q2 2016558581
Q3 2016534568
Q4 2016510570
Q1 2017548591
Q2 2017547596
Q3 2017529580
Q4 2017493555

More information

At-a-glance summary

The level of debt owed by domestic customers in arrears (who do not yet have a debt repayment arrangement set up) has generally risen since we started collecting data in 2012

In the last year Q4 2016 to Q4 2017 there has been a small fall in average levels of arrears for both Gas and Electricity

The trend increase in the average arears is at least in part due to reductions in the total number of customers in debt, as customers with lower levels of debt clear their arrears leaving fewer customers with higher levels of arrears. We will continue to monitor this closely.

Relevance and further information

There continues to be a seasonal pattern to energy debt. Debt generally falls towards the end of the year, when customers are billed for the warmer months. It then rises in the spring when customers fall into arrears following higher energy usage during the winter months. This seasonal trend is more pronounced with gas, most likely due to the importance of gas heating during winter.

Methodology

A customer is in arrears if they have not paid a bill for longer than 91 days/13 weeks, and there is no formal arrangement to repay the debt. It excludes any costs for subsequent consumption. This will include customers who are billed in arrears for ongoing consumption, and direct debit customers who have fallen into debt by defaulting on one or more payments. It should exclude customers who have begun the transition to a formal debt repayment arrangement, but have not yet started repaying their debt.

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Chart

Source: Vulnerability Report 2018.

Information correct as of: June 2018

This chart shows the average amount of debt owed by domestic customers who have a debt repayment arrangement set up between Q3 2012 and Q4 2017. Improvements to how we collect information about average debt mean that it is not possible to make comparisons between data provided by suppliers before and after quarter three (July-Sept) 2012.

Policy Areas:

  • Domestic consumers

Data Table

Average level of debt remaining where there is an arrangement to repay the debt

GasElectricity
Q3 2012325314
Q4 2012313304
Q1 2013334312
Q2 2013341316
Q3 2013334312
Q4 2013323306
Q1 2014346342
Q2 2014360348
Q3 2014368354
Q4 2014382355
Q1 2015375355
Q2 2015389366
Q3 2015386375
Q4 2015382384
Q1 2016388390
Q2 2016408417
Q3 2016407421
Q4 2016410427
Q1 2017415430
Q2 2017419438
Q3 2017414441
Q4 2017411442

More information

At-a-glance summary

There has been an increasing trend in the average level of remaining debt for domestic customers who have a debt repayment arrangement. In the last few quarters the debt for electricity and gas customers has continued to rise at a steady rate from Q2 2016 to Q2 2017, reaching £419 in gas and £438 in electricity.  Since then the average level of remaining electricity debt has continued to rise while the average remaining gas debt has slightly decreased.

Methodology

This is a snapshot figure of the average debt that remained owing on the last day of the reporting period for customers repaying a debt. It only includes the outstanding amount of debt that the customer is paying as part of a repayment plan and does not include any debt incurred for consumption since the start of the repayment plan.

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Chart

Source: Vulnerability Report 2018.

Information correct as of: June 2018

This chart shows the proportion of domestic gas and electricity customers repaying a debt who are paying via a prepayment meter (PPM) between Q1 2011 and Q4 2017.

Policy Areas:

  • Domestic consumers

Data Table

The proportion of customers repaying a debt to their supplier using a prepayment meter (PPM) (%)

ElectricityGas
Q1 201141%40%
Q2 201140%36%
Q3 201140%40%
Q4 201141%46%
Q1 201236%43%
Q2 2012 32%38%
Q3 2012 35%38%
Q4 2012 37%41%
Q1 201335%37%
Q2 201334%33%
Q3 201334%35%
Q4 201335%37%
Q1 201439%40%
Q2 201439%41%
Q3 201439%43%
Q4 201440%44%
Q1 201539%43%
Q2 201539%42%
Q3 201538%41%
Q4 201539%43%
Q1 201638%41%
Q2 201639%41%
Q3 201639%42%
Q4 201640%43%
Q1 201738%42%
Q2 201739%42%
Q3 201738%42%
Q4 201738%44%

More information

At-a-glance summary

The proportion of domestic customers repaying debt who are paying via a prepayment meter has stayed broadly static in the last three years. Gas customers continue to be more likely to repay a debt via a PPM than electricity customers.

Relevance and further information

From 1 April 2017 a cap on the amount suppliers can charge domestic PPM customers came into force. Suppliers must set their prepayment prices at or below this level.

Methodology

When a customer is in debt to their supplier they can repay this debt via they payment method they had previously, or a PPM can be installed to collect payments. Some customers may choose to have a PPM installed, while others may have a PPM installed to repay debts at the request of their supplier or may have a PPM installed under warrant. A debt repayment arrangement is an arrangement to repay debts which lasts more than 91 days/13 weeks.

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Chart

Javascript is required to render chart Number of disconnections for non-payment of debt.

Source: Vulnerability Report 2018.

Information correct as of: June 2018

This chart shows the total number of domestic gas and electricity customers disconnected for non-payment of debt between Q1 2006 and Q4 2017.

Policy Areas:

  • Domestic consumers

Data Table

Number of disconnections for non-payment of debt

ElectricityGas
Q1 2006213723
Q2 2006226864
Q3 20063621,112
Q4 20064571,157
Q1 20075441,389
Q2 20075821,538
Q3 20076721,462
Q4 20078591,338
Q1 20086981,003
Q2 2008918810
Q3 2008626571
Q4 2008474280
Q1 2009698226
Q2 2009794573
Q3 2009636613
Q4 2009543382
Q1 2010443151
Q2 2010794311
Q3 2010685305
Q4 20106646
Q1 20114420
Q2 2011375146
Q3 2011419128
Q4 20118335
Q1 2012132
Q2 201213833
Q3 201219351
Q4 201210918
Q1 2013709
Q2 201316229
Q3 201326840
Q4 2013566
Q1 201400
Q2 20143112
Q3 201415929
Q4 201420
Q1 201521
Q2 20156320
Q3 201513427
Q4 201551
Q1 201611
Q2 20166831
Q3 20168820
Q4 201601
Q1 201700
Q2 2017130
Q3 201713
Q4 201700

More information

At-a-glance summary

There has been a long term reduction in the number of domestic customers disconnected for debt. Between Q4 2016 and Q1 2017 the number of disconnections for non-payment of debt decreased to 17 for both gas and electricity from 210 disconnections in the same period the previous year.

Relevance and further information

During winter (October to March) suppliers are prohibited from knowingly disconnecting customers of pensionable age (where they live alone, with other pensioners or with children). Suppliers must also take all reasonable steps during winter to avoid disconnecting premises where the occupants include a person who has a disability or a chronic sickness or a person of pensionable age.

Members of Energy UK also adhere to a voluntary code of practice known as the ‘Safety Net’. Among other protections, signatories have committed to not disconnecting customers in vulnerable situations at any time of year and to reconnecting customers who are subsequently identified as vulnerable as a priority and usually within 24 hours. Compliance with the Safety Net is independently audited. Further information about the code can be found on Energy UK’s website.

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Chart

Javascript is required to render chart Number of accounts with a consumer repaying an energy debt.

Source: Vulnerability Report 2018.

Information correct as of: June 2018

This chart shows the number of domestic gas and electricity customers who are repaying a debt to their supplier between Q1 2006 and Q4 2017.

Policy Areas:

  • Domestic consumers

Data Table

Number of accounts with a consumer repaying an energy debt

GasElectricity
Q1 20069771,262
Q2 200611931,304
Q3 20069601,319
Q4 20067861,208
Q1 20079171,294
Q2 200710371,341
Q3 20079591,341
Q4 20077851,293
Q1 20087691,004
Q2 20088221,025
Q3 2008709980
Q4 2008646952
Q1 20098731,139
Q2 20099641,173
Q3 20099181,089
Q4 20097261,006
Q1 2010673910
Q2 2010838989
Q3 2010839953
Q4 2010711854
Q1 2011731866
Q2 2011864921
Q3 2011811870
Q4 2011691779
Q1 2012730799
Q2 2012868940
Q3 2012829930
Q4 2012802901
Q1 2013885982
Q2 20131,0021,034
Q3 20131,0121,046
Q4 20139361,017
Q1 2014837902
Q2 2014836899
Q3 2014808874
Q4 2014759840
Q1 2015716799
Q2 2015727798
Q3 2015703777
Q4 2015654745
Q1 2016654754
Q2 2016636722
Q3 2016617710
Q4 2016577681
Q1 2017567673
Q2 2017569672
Q3 2017559667
Q4 2017539652

More information

At-a-glance summary

This chart shows the number of domestic customers who are repaying a debt to their supplier on their gas or electricity account. Taking account of the total numbers of domestic customers this equates to a fall from around 5% in 2006 to around 2.4% in 2[AP1] [EW2] 017 for both electricity and gas customers.

Relevance and further information

The number of customer accounts repaying an energy debt has been decreasing since 2006, when in percentage terms, nearly 5% of electricity customers and over 4.5% of gas customers were repaying a debt. There was a peak in Q2 and Q3 2013, but the downward trend continued after this, reaching around 650,000 customers for electricity (2.4% of customers) and 540,000 customers for gas (2.3% of customers).

Methodology

This data reports the number of customers who have a debt repayment arrangement with their supplier on the last day of the quarter. These are customers who have entered a formal arrangement with their supplier to repay outstanding debts, including all prepayment (PPM) customers repaying a debt, and non-PPM customers on debt repayment arrangements extending beyond 91 days/13 weeks. It does not include those customers with a debit at the end of a payment scheme that will be rolled into a new payment scheme and those who have had their payments increased because previous payments were set too low. All customers on payment schemes (including direct debit) are excluded once the initial debt has been repaid.

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Chart

Source: Vulnerability Report 2018.

Information correct as of: June 2018

This chart shows the total number of domestic gas and electricity customers who are in arrears, but have no debt repayment arrangement between Q3 2012 and Q4 2017. We only hold data related to debts that are being repaid for the period prior to quarter three 2012.

Policy Areas:

  • Domestic consumers

Data Table

Number of accounts in arrears where there is no arrangement to repay the debt

Gas Electricity
Q3 2012 399,183 464,197
Q4 2012 392,384 457,853
Q1 2013 407,462 495,902
Q2 2013 446,920 522,363
Q3 2013 453,115 520,274
Q4 2013 445,163 513,438
Q1 2014 432,850 496,390
Q2 2014 472,528 547,847
Q3 2014 472,386 567,467
Q4 2014 472,533 547,855
Q1 2015 419,614 532,988
Q2 2015 434,412 537,579
Q3 2015 420,738 517,783
Q4 2015 400,488 483,245
Q1 2016 378,432 476,224
Q2 2016 402,372 499,547
Q3 2016 409,539 525,846
Q4 2016 388,287 508,349
Q1 2017 381,877 509,789
Q2 2017 420,173 547,806
Q3 2017 424,349 555,975
Q4 2017 455,822 595,996

More information

At-a-glance summary

Customers in arrears are customers who owe a debt to their supplier, but do not yet have a debt repayment arrangement in place. The number of customers in arrears grew slowly from when we started collecting data in 2012, to a peak in 2014 (at over 2% of electricity and gas customers). Since then it decreased slowly, and, started to edge back up towards the 2014 peak.

Relevance and further information

There continues to be a seasonal pattern to energy debt. Debt generally falls towards the end of the year, when customers are billed for the warmer months. It then rises in the spring when customers fall into arrears following higher energy usage during the winter months.

Methodology

These are accounts that have had a bill issued which remains unpaid for longer than 91 days/13 weeks where a formal arrangement to repay the debt has not been agreed.

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Through the publications and update feed below you can also access our publications and outputs produced in relation to suppliers’ social obligations.

Publications and updates

  • Published: 28th Nov 2002
  • Reports and plans
  • 1 Associated documents
The Social Action Plan has a series of 12 indicators to monitor its progress. A number of these indicators are updated on a quarterly basis from figures provided by suppliers under their codes of practice monitoring returns.

  • Published: 11th Sep 2002
  • Consultations and responses
  • 1 Associated documents
This document describes a joint project between energywatch and Ofgem to identify good practice in the prevention of debt and disconnection, and the management of debt recovery.

  • Published: 27th Jun 2002
  • Reports and plans
  • 1 Associated documents
This document sets out arrangements for monitoring domestic electricity and gas suppliers performance under their Codes of Practice.

  • Published: 13th Feb 2001
  • Reports and plans
  • 1 Associated documents
and gas suppliers performance under their Codes of Practice.

  • Published: 31st May 2000
  • Decisions
  • 1 Associated documents
This document sets out final details of modifications to licence conditions with respect to Codes of Practice, and certain other associated licence terms, which Ofgem is introducing under the Social Action Plan.

  • Published: 10th Jan 2000
  • Consultations and responses
  • 1 Associated documents
This document makes proposals for improving the provision of services to disadvantaged customers.

  • Published: 29th Oct 1999
  • Reports and plans
  • 1 Associated documents
The promotion of good customer service is a major objective of the Director General of Electricity Supply. Each year since 1992 he has reported on the performance of the Public Electricity Suppliers (PESs) in providing services for electricity customers.

  • Published: 29th Oct 1998
  • Reports and plans
  • 1 Associated documents
of Performance which have been set for public electricity suppliers (PESs) are an important element in the regulatoryframework and serve to protect the interests of customers in key service areas.

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