Solarplicity Supply Ltd: Provisional Order

Opened:
Feb 2019
Closed:
May 2019

Decision not to confirm the provisional order

On 22 May 2019 the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority ("the Authority") made the decision not to confirm the provisional order issued to Solarplicity Supply Limited ("Solarplicity") on 22 February 2019.

The Authority issued a Notice of Proposal to confirm the provisional order in a modified form on 17 April 2019. The Notice of Proposal invited representations or objections in relation to the proposed confirmation by 13 May 2019. The Authority received four representations. The provisional order required Solarplicity to submit information and documentation to the Authority in respect of its performance against the relevant conditions and requirements covered by the order. In making its decision, the Authority considered this information and the representations it received.

In this case, the Authority considered it requisite to issue the provisional order to bring Solarplicity into compliance with its obligations so as to mitigate and prevent further harm to its customers. Following a review of the representations and the information and documentation submitted by Solarplicity, the Authority notes that compliance with the obligations set out in the provisional order has either been achieved or, in one aspect, is in progress. Solarplicity’s performance has improved since the issue of the provisional order and it has agreed to a range of ongoing measures which will build on and sustain the improvements shown in respect of the relevant conditions set out in the provisional order.

The Authority is now satisfied that Solarplicity is no longer contravening or likely to contravene the following relevant conditions:

  • Standard Licence Condition of the gas and electricity supply licences ("SLC") 0.3 (c)(i): to make it easy for a Domestic Customer to contact the licensee;
  • SLC 0.3 (c)(ii): to act promptly and courteously to put things right when the licensee or any Representative makes a mistake;
  • SLC 0.3 (c)(iii): to ensure that customer service arrangements and processes are complete, thorough, fit for purpose and transparent;
  • SLC 14A.1:to take all reasonable steps to complete a Supplier Transfer within 21 days of the Relevant Date;
  • SLC 14A.7: to take all reasonable steps to improve the systems and processes governing the Supplier Transfer process; and

The Gas and Electricity (Consumer Complaints Handling Standards) Regulations 2008 ("CHSR"):

  • Regulation 3: Regulated providers’ complaints handling procedure;
  • Regulation 4: Recording complaints upon receipt;
  • Regulation 5: Maintaining appropriate records of the handling of complaints;
  • Regulation 6: Signposting consumers to the redress scheme if complaints cannot be resolved; and
  • Regulation 7: Receiving, handling and processing consumer complaints in an efficient and timely manner; and allocating and maintaining sufficient level of resources.

The Authority is however satisfied that, as at 22 May 2019, Solarplicity is contravening SLC 27.5. SLC 27.5 requires licensees to offer the services set out at SLC 27.6 to customers who have or will have difficulty paying. One of the services that Solarplicity is required to offer its customers in payment difficulty is the facility to make payment by deduction at source from social security benefits received by that customer. As at 22 May 2019, Solarplicity does not offer this service and is therefore contravening SLC 27.5.

However, Solarplicity provided a letter of undertaking to the Authority dated 21 May 2019 ("the Undertaking"). In the Undertaking, Solarplicity has agreed to take all steps necessary to comply with SLC 27.5 and anticipates being able to offer the required service by 23 May 2019. Solarplicity has agreed to report to the Authority and notify its customers when the service is available, or provide a progress report on 28 May 2019 (whichever is earlier). In terms of section 25(5A) of the Electricity Act 1989 and 28(5A) of the Gas Act 1986, the Authority is not required to confirm a provisional order if it is satisfied that the regulated person has agreed to take and is taking all appropriate steps to facilitate compliance with a relevant condition. Given the terms of the Undertaking, the Authority is satisfied that Solarplicity is doing so.

In its Undertaking Solarplicity also agrees to:

  • (with regard to vulnerable customers – SLC 0.3d) - complete the roll-out of its new Vulnerable Customers Policy. Solarplicity anticipates that this will be completed by 7 June 2019 and it will report to the Authority in this regard on 10 June 2019. Solarplicity will also take other steps to improve its process for identifying and providing services to Domestic Customers in a Vulnerable Situation and will keep the Authority updated in that regard. Solarplicity has also agreed to provide the information required by paragraph 8.1 of the provisional order on a weekly basis for the next two months and thereafter on a monthly basis or on any other reporting frequency agreed with the Authority;
  • (with regard to customers in payment difficulty – SLC 27.5) - update and improve the wording of the debt letters that it sends to customers and keep the Authority updated in that regard and also to provide the information required by paragraph 9.2 of the Provisional Order;
  • (with regard to making it easy for customers to contact it – 0.3c) – provide the information required by paragraph 6.5 of the provisional order on a weekly basis for the next two months and thereafter on a monthly basis (or on any alternative basis deemed appropriate by the Authority thereafter);
  • (with regard to customer complaints handling – regulations 3 to 7 of the CHSR) – provide the information required by paragraph 7.4 of the provisional order on a weekly basis for the next two months and thereafter on a monthly basis (or on any alternative basis deemed appropriate by the Authority thereafter);
  • Not to take on any new customers from the general public until 5 August 2019 and to take on a maximum of 200 customers per week under Community Energy Schemes and to provide reports to the Authority with regard to the number of customers that have transferred to it under these schemes;
  • Not to increase the direct debits of vulnerable customers or use debt collection agents to pursue those customers until it has taken the steps it has agreed to with regard to vulnerable customers or if agreed to by the Authority.

Further details can be found in Notice of Decision not to Confirm the Provisional Order.

Proposal to confirm provisional order as modified

On 18 April 2019, the Authority published its notice of proposal to confirm, with modifications, the provisional order dated 22 February 2019, issued to Solarplicity. The Authority gave notice that in accordance with section 26(1) of the Electricity Act and section 29(1) of the Gas Act:

  1. The Standard Conditions of the Gas and Electricity Supply Licences (collectively referred to as the "SLCs") 0.3c(i), (ii) and (iii), 0.3d(i) and (ii), 14.A1, 14.A7 and 27.5 and regulations 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Gas and Electricity (Consumer Complaints Handling Standards) Regulations 2008 (‘CHSR’) are the relevant conditions and requirements for the purpose of the provisional order with modifications;
  2. The basis on which the Authority was satisfied that Solarplicity was contravening or was likely to contravene these conditions and requirements and on which it considered that it is requisite that the provisional order was confirmed as modified was set out in the notice of proposal to confirm the provisional order;
  3. Any representations or objections with respect to the proposed confirmation were to be made to the Authority by 13 May 2019;
  4. The Authority would consider these representations and then make a final decision on whether to confirm the provisional order prior to 22 May 2019 (the date on which the provisional order will lapse if not confirmed).

Issue of provisional order

On 22 February 2019, the Authority issued a provisional order to Solarplicity in accordance with Section 25(2) of the Electricity Act 1989 and Section 28(2) of the Gas Act 1986. The Authority had been in discussions with Solarplicity regarding compliance with its obligations under:

  • SLCs 0.3c(i), 0.3c(ii) and 0.3c(iii), 0.3d(i) and 0.3d(ii), 14A.1, 14A.7, SLC 22C.3, 22C.4, 22C.6, 22C.7 and 27.5.
  • Regulations 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the CHSR.

The particular behaviours of concern giving rise to the making of the provisional order were that Solarplicity’s Domestic Customers were or were likely to be at risk of:

  • not being able to contact Solarplicity via some of its customer contact methods, where customer service arrangements were not fit for purpose;
  • not being identified as a vulnerable customer and added to the Priority Services Register (PSR);
  • not receiving help or support in relation to ability to pay, e.g. not offering payment plans, not facilitating payment by means of deducting it at source from a social security benefit received by the customer or installation of a Prepayment Meter (PPM), where appropriate;
  • not receiving a notice of a contract renewal once their existing contract has come to an end ("Contract Renewals");
  • not having their complaints correctly identified, logged or signposted.

Based on the information received by the Authority, it appeared to the Authority that Solarplicity was contravening or was likely to contravene SLCs 0.3c(i), 0.3c(ii) and 0.3c(iii), 0.3d(i) and 0.3d(ii), 14A.1, 14A.7, SLC 22C.3, 22C.4, 22C.6, 22C.7 and 27.5 and regulations 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the CHSR.

Further information regarding provisional orders is contained within our Enforcement Guidelines.