Millions of energy customers have been handed a lifeline to help keep the lights on, after the regulator said firms must offer flexible repayments and emergency credit.
Ofgem today confirmed plans to bolster protections for people who are struggling to pay their energy bills in the winter and require companies to support their customers.
This could include giving prepayment customers emergency credit if they are unable to top up their meters, possibly because they temporarily cannot afford to pay or they cannot get to a shop because they are self-isolating.
Ofgem said the estimated 4.3 million prepayment customers are more likely to be in vulnerable circumstances and it will make the additional support part of firms’ licencing conditions from December 15.
In March energy firms voluntarily agreed to offer support to customers who were having trouble meeting their bills because of the pandemic and the regulator said the new rules will make this a requirement.
In April, more than one million households were receiving some, or had received, some form of support from their supplier.
Philippa Pickford, a director at Ofgem, said: “Customers who are struggling to pay their bills should contact their supplier as soon as possible. The extra protections we have announced today will help ensure they get some breathing space this winter.”
Dame Gillian Guy, of the charity Citizens Advice, said the move would help more people who are struggling to stay afloat.
She added: “Energy is an essential service and everyone should be confident they can adequately heat their home and protect their health – especially during a global pandemic.”