Ofgem has decided to close, by way of alternative action, its investigation into Utility Warehouse’s (UW) compliance with Standard Licence Conditions (“SLC”) 25C/0 (Domestic Customer Objective and Standards of Conduct for supply activities); SLC 27.5 (Domestic Customers in payment difficulty – services) and 27.8 (Customers in payment difficulty - ability to pay); 28B (Warrants relating to Pre-payment Meters); and 32 (Provision of Social Obligation Reporting (SOR) data) of its Gas and Electricity Supply Licences.
The decision was taken in accordance with our Enforcement Guidelines and as a consequence of UW’s offer to make a redress payment, in recognition of its failures, of £1.5 million to Ofgem’s Voluntary Redress Fund (administered by the Energy Saving Trust). UW has also taken satisfactory improvement actions during the course of the investigation.
These licence conditions relate to the provision of services to customers in payment difficulty, their ability to pay and associated communications. This includes requirements for warrants for pre-payment meters (pre-payment charge restriction).
SLC 25C, which was in force until 9 October 2017, required suppliers to take all reasonable steps to achieve certain standards of conduct and to ensure that the standards were interpreted and applied consistently with the customer objective, which was to treat customers fairly. This requirement has since been updated and our updated Standards of Conduct (SLC 0) came into force on 10 October 2017.
SLCs 27.5 and 27.8 set out specific obligations concerning services that suppliers should offer, where suppliers are aware or have reason to believe that customers are in payment difficulty; and suppliers should take all reasonable steps to ascertain a customer’s ability to pay.
SLC 28B, introduced on 8 January 2018, places certain conditions on the use of warrants relating to pre-payment meters and other supplier actions in relation to debt.
During the course of the investigation, UW raised the fact that it had reported some inaccurate Social Obligations Reporting (SOR) data which requires suppliers to report on performance in relation to their dealings with domestic customers, and specifically here in relation to customers in payment difficulty. On 18 October 2019 the scope of the investigation was therefore widened to cover SLC 32. UW has since re-submitted the relevant data, where possible, covering 2013-2019.
Having acknowledged the failure to consistently comply with the above SLCs, UW has agreed to make a payment of £1.5 million into the Voluntary Redress Fund.
Further details can be found in the decision document.