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.

Chart

Source: Ofgem Data.

Information correct as of: March 2021

This chart shows the average amount of debt owed by domestic customers who were in arrears but did not yet have a debt repayment arrangement set up, between Q3 2012 and Q4 2020.

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
Q1 2018488571
Q2 2018506571
Q3 2018508598
Q4 2018478589
Q1 2019498619
Q2 2019550653
Q3 2019546670
Q4 2019510654
Q1 2020531661
Q2 2020527653
Q3 2020583736
Q4 2020590774

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 risen since we started collecting this data in Q1 2012.  Following a downward trend for both electricity and gas (i.e. from Q2/Q3 2019 to Q2 2020), the level of debt increased again from Q3, and in Q4 2020 was £774 for electricity and £590 for gas.

Relevance and further information

Previously, there has been 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 as customers fall into arrears following higher energy usage during the winter months. The seasonal trend has been more pronounced with gas, most likely due to the importance of gas heating during winter.

However, 2020 bucked the trend with Q3 seeing the biggest percentage increase in electricity and gas arrears of any single quarter since at least 2012 (13% and 11% respectively). There was a further increase in arrears during Q4 when normally there would be a dip; it was the first time since 2014 that there had been an increase in gas arrears during this quarter. This has presumably been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic which will have likely caused an increase in household consumption (due to increased time spent at home) as well as increasingly difficult financial circumstances faced by some households.

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 charges 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: Ofgem Data.

Information correct as of: March 2021

This chart shows the average amount of debt owed by domestic customers who had a debt repayment arrangement set up between Q3 2012 and Q4 2020.

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
Q1 2018413442
Q2 2018415449
Q3 2018414457
Q4 2018400456
Q1 2019406461
Q2 2019396453
Q3 2019400467
Q4 2019383458
Q1 2020371443
Q2 2020363427
Q3 2020395462
Q4 2020398490

More information

At-a-glance summary

There had been an increasing trend in the average level of remaining debt for domestic electricity customers who have a debt repayment arrangement, with a peak in Q3 2019, while gas debt had levelled off since 2016 with a slight peak in Q2 2017. More recently, a downward trend (for both gas and electricity customers) in the nine months up to the end of Q2 2020 was followed by a significant rise during Q3 2020. Gas debt levelled off during Q4 2020 (increasing by just 0.8%) whereas electricity debt increased by a further 6%. These large fluctuations have likely been partially caused by the COVID-19 pandemic with an initial delay in debt repayment arrangements being set up due to the difficulties many customers had with contacting their supplier in Q2 2020.

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: Ofgem Data.

Information correct as of: March 2021

This chart shows the proportion of domestic prepayment gas and electricity customers who were repaying a debt to their supplier through their prepayment meter (PPM) between Q1 2011 and Q4 2020.

Policy Areas:

  • Domestic consumers

Data Table

The proportion of customers repaying a debt to their supplier who are repaying through a 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%
Q1 201837%41%
Q2 201835%39%
Q3 201835%38%
Q4 201836%39%
Q1 201932%35%
Q2 201935%36%
Q3 201936%36%
Q4 201937%38%
Q1 202036%38%
Q2 202034%34%
Q3 202036%33%
Q4 202034%38%

More information

At-a-glance summary

After a fall in the proportion of domestic customers repaying debt to their supplier using a PPM meter during 2018 and fall again during the first two quarters of 2020 for both electricity and gas.  Suppliers responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic may have delayed discussions with customers about moving accounts in debt to PPM and this could explain some of the reduction identified. In Q4 2020 the proportion of electricity PPM customers repaying a debt through a PPM decreased by 2% to 34%, while in gas it increased by 5% to 38%. As a result, in Q4 2020 the proportion of PPM customers repaying a debt through a PPM is again higher in gas.

Relevance and further information

From 1 April 2017, a cap on the amount suppliers can charge domestic customers using PPM (PPM Price Cap) came into force and suppliers had to set their prepayment prices at or below the cap level. As PPM price cap expired at the end of 2020, default PPM customers are now protected by the Default Price Cap that came into effect on 1 January 2019, bringing further price protection for all customers on poor value standard variable and default tariffs. Further information on price caps can be found here

Methodology

A debt repayment arrangement is an arrangement to repay debts which lasts more than 91 days/13 weeks. When a customer is in debt to their supplier, they can repay this debt via the 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.

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Chart

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

Source: Ofgem Data.

Information correct as of: March 2021

This chart shows the total number of domestic gas and electricity customers disconnected for non-payment of debt between Q1 2006 and Q4 2020.

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
Q1 201800
Q2 201820
Q3 201840
Q4 201800
Q1 201903
Q2 201933
Q3 201913
Q4 201912
Q1 202001
Q2 202000
Q3 202000
Q4 202000

More information

At-a-glance summary

A long-term trend of reduction in the number of domestic customers disconnected for debt continued. During the whole of 2020, there was just one single disconnection for non-payment of debt. This compares to 16 disconnections in 2019 (5 for electricity and 11 for gas customers). Disconnection of customers for debt is now very rare. You can find out more about the protections for consumers here.

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: Ofgem Data.

Information correct as of: March 2021

This chart shows the number of domestic gas and electricity customers who were repaying a debt to their supplier between Q1 2006 and Q4 2020.

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
Q1 2018555675
Q2 2018571686
Q3 2018564680
Q4 2018544661
Q1 2019598727
Q2 2019627774
Q3 2019605776
Q4 2019588740
Q1 2020615763
Q2 2020617759
Q3 2020588776
Q4 2020568726

More information

At-a-glance summary

The number of domestic customers who were repaying a debt to their supplier at the end of Q4 2020 in electricity was slightly lower compared to the same quarter in 2019 for both gas and electricity accounts. The total number fell to 726,000 for electricity (2.6% of all customers) and 568,000 for gas (2.5% of all customers).

Relevance and further information

Overall, the number of customer accounts repaying an energy debt decreased from the beginning of this time series in 2006, when nearly 5% of electricity customers and 4.7% of gas customers were repaying a debt. This is likely to be a consequence of the generalised shift of customers paying by monthly direct debit, reducing the numbers of customers who fall into arrears with their supplier. Suppliers are now also more proactive in helping customers to avoid falling into debt in the first place. 

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: Ofgem Data.

Information correct as of: March 2021

This chart shows the total number of domestic gas and electricity customers who were in arrears but had no debt repayment arrangement in place, between Q3 2012 and Q4 2020.

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
Q1 2018448,886596,008
Q2 2018497,442651,869
Q3 2018517,529647,894
Q4 2018505,314648,429
Q1 2019497,505644,938
Q2 2019532,490687,353
Q3 2019520,672669,760
Q4 2019539,605694,191
Q1 2020565,784715,191
Q2 2020703,371898,602
Q3 2020630,813803,471
Q4 2020554,698701,517

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 up until Q1 2017, before steadily increasing for the following three years. There was a dramatic increase during Q2 2020 (peaking at 3.2 % of electricity and 3.1% of gas customers) before falling during Q3 and Q4 2020, to 2.5% in electricity and 2.4% in gas; broadly similar to Q4 2019 levels.

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 that pay quarterly are billed for the warmer months. It then rises in the spring when customers that pay quarterly fall into arrears following higher energy usage during the winter months.. However, this was far more pronounced in 2020 with the dramatic rise in Q2 2020 likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 update feed below you can also access our previous publications and outputs relating to suppliers’ social obligations.

Publications and updates

  • Published: 16th Dec 2020
  • Decisions
  • 5 Associated documents
See our consultation on SOR questions.

  • Published: 11th Nov 2020
  • Closed: 11th Dec 2020
  • Consultations and responses
  • 12 Associated documents
See our consultation on SOR questions.

  • Published: 25th Sep 2019
  • Reports and plans
  • 6 Associated documents
This report presents a view of the extent to which vulnerable consumers are experiencing positive outcomes in the energy market.

  • Published: 27th Aug 2019
  • Decisions
  • 1 Associated documents
This document is Ofgem’s decision in response to our consultation on revisions to the data collected from suppliers in relation to their social obligations.

  • Published: 22nd Nov 2018
  • Closed: 24th Jan 2019
  • Consultations and responses
  • 2 Associated documents
We plan to consult on revisions to the data we collect from suppliers in relation to their social obligations as we streamline the data we collect and how we process it.

  • Published: 18th Jun 2018
  • Reports and plans
  • 6 Associated documents
This report presents a view of the extent to which vulnerable consumers are experiencing positive outcomes in the energy market.

  • Published: 16th Oct 2017
  • Reports and plans
  • 6 Associated documents
This report represents a view of the extent to which vulnerable consumers are experiencing positive outcomes in the retail energy market.

  • Published: 30th Sep 2016
  • Reports and plans
  • 7 Associated documents
The report summarises domestic suppliers’ performance in 2015 on debt, disconnection, prepayment meters and services for consumers in vulnerable situations.

  • Published: 12th Aug 2016
  • Guidance
  • 1 Associated documents
These directions from the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority formally issue revised “Guidance on monitoring suppliers' performance in relation to domestic customers”.

  • Published: 8th Sep 2015
  • Reports and plans
  • 6 Associated documents
The report summarises domestic suppliers’ performance in 2014 on debt, disconnection, prepayment meters and services for consumers in vulnerable situations.

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