Consumer vulnerability protections

Our approach

We constantly assess the experience of consumers in vulnerable situations and take action to address the issues they face as energy users.

These actions support our objective to protect vulnerable consumers as described in our Consumer Vulnerability Strategy 2025.

Between 2020 and 2025 we will focus our vulnerable consumer protection activities on the following five areas:

  • Improving identification of vulnerability and smart use of data.
  • Supporting those struggling with their bills.
  • Driving significant improvements in customer service for vulnerable groups.
  • Encouraging positive and inclusive innovation.
  • Working with partners to tackle issues that cut across multiple sectors.

We are committed to evaluating and monitoring progress towards these outcomes.

We report on them in our annual Vulnerable Consumers in

the Energy Market Report and our annual Ofgem Consumer Impact Report. You can find both of these in the publications list at the bottom of this page.

Current areas of activity

Prepayment meters price cap

The Default Tariff Cap protects consumers who use prepayment meters as well as other consumers who have defaulted to their supplier’s standard variable tariff.

The cap limits the amount that suppliers can charge these consumers for a single unit of electricity.

Social Obligations Reporting

Monitoring and reporting form a key part of our work to protect the interests of consumers. Under 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:

  • payment methods;
  • levels of debt;
  • disconnection rates;
  • prepayment meters; and
  • non-financial support for customers 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 are complying 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.

Publishing data on social obligations is part of our work to ensure that the energy market is as transparent as possible.

See our customer service data for more information.

Measures taken previously

Self-disconnection and self-rationing

In December 2020 we introduced rules to help reduce the number of prepayment customers who go without energy or “self-disconnect” after running out of credit on their meter.

Measures include requiring suppliers to offer emergency credit to customers struggling to top up their prepayment meter, and to offer extra prepayment credit for households in vulnerable circumstances.

Protections for non-E7 restricted meter customers

In 2016 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) required all suppliers with over 50,000 electricity customers to make all their single-rate tariffs available to domestic customers on restricted meters, without making switching to these tariffs conditional on replacement of the restricted meter.

In October 2020 we decided to extend the period of these restricted meter protections so that they remain in place until the completion of the smart meter rollout.

Energy Back-billing

In March 2018, we announced our decision to protect consumers from lengthy back-bills, banning suppliers from issuing customers with back-bills for energy used more than 12 months prior to the date of the bill.

Publications and updates