Western Power Distribution pays £14.9 million after failing vulnerable customers

Press release

Publication date

Industry sector

  • Distribution Network
  • Supply and Retail Market
  • WPD has agreed to pay £3.7 million for each of the four licences it operates, totalling £14.9 million, after instances of failing to provide information, advice and services to customers on its Priority Services Register
  • The network company’s non-compliance may have meant some of its most vulnerable customers did not always receive the full support they should have, particularly during power cuts
  • Ofgem’s action will help ensure that network companies meet their obligations to their Priority Services Register customers

Western Power Distribution (WPD), the largest electricity distribution network operator in Great Britain, has agreed to make a voluntary redress payment of £14.9 million after accepting it failed to meet its obligations to provide information to some of its most vulnerable customers.

Network companies are required to provide additional services to households in vulnerable circumstances who are on their Priority Services Registers (PSR). There are approximately 6 million customers registered for priority assistance across Great Britain.

These additional services include providing prompt information and advice during unplanned power cuts to these customers, for whom a loss of electricity supply may be particularly difficult. This helps these customers take steps to keep themselves safe and access any additional assistance from network companies.

Examples of additional assistance could include, in appropriate circumstances, mobile power generators, hot meals and drinks, alternative accommodation and on-site welfare units.

Ofgem launched an investigation into WPD’s compliance with its PSR obligations in 2020. Ofgem found WPD, which has around 1.7 million PSR customers, failed to promptly notify and update some of those affected on the register by power cuts about when power would be restored and what assistance was available.

WPD also did not promptly provide specific information on how to prepare for power cuts for the majority of its newly added PSR Customers, with some waiting up to a year after sign up for the information to be provided.

This made it harder for these PSR customers to plan ahead to ensure their needs were met and access the available assistance. This issue occurred over a period of five years.

Ofgem’s investigation also found that WPD failed to ensure all staff visiting the homes of customers, including those in vulnerable circumstances, had sufficient background checks, in particular DBS checks.

Following the investigation and lengthy engagement with Ofgem, WPD has acted to address all areas of concern, changing its policies, procedures and processes.

WPD has agreed to make a voluntary redress payment of £14.9 million to Ofgem’s Redress Fund which will benefit customers. This reflects the seriousness of the failings and the importance of complying with all regulatory obligations, especially concerning vulnerable customers.

Cathryn Scott, director of enforcement and emerging issues at Ofgem, said:

“WPD did not meet all of its obligations to provide additional support to some of its most vulnerable customers to safeguard their well-being. In our view it also took too long to put this right. This is totally unacceptable.

“Our enforcement against the company sends a strong message that when companies fail to provide the required services to their Priority Services Register customers, Ofgem will take action.”

Notes to editors

1. Ofgem’s Redress Fund is operated on its behalf by the Energy Saving Trust and allows companies to pay a sum of money to appropriate charities, trusts, organisations or consumers as a result of breaches of licence conditions.

2. Find out more about the Priority Service Register (PSR), including how to join and who is eligible.

3. If you experience a power cut, call 105 for free and you will be put through to your local network operator who can give you help and advice

4. WPD covers four licensed areas of Great Britain including the South West, South Wales and the Midlands. The penalty equates to approximately £3.7 million for each of the four licensed entities.

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