Ofgem Standards of Conduct
In August 2013 Ofgem put new Standards of Conduct into place. They require suppliers and any organisations that represent them, such as brokers or third party intermediaries, to ensure that each domestic customer is treated fairly. They cover three broad areas:
suppliers must behave and carry out any actions in a fair, honest, transparent, appropriate and professional manner.
suppliers must provide information (whether in writing or orally) which is:
- complete, accurate and not misleading (in terms of the information provided or omitted);
- communicated in plain and intelligible language;
- related to products or services that are appropriate to the customer to whom it is directed; and
- fair both in terms of its content and in terms of how it is presented (with more important information being given appropriate prominence).
the supplier must:
- make it easy for the consumer to contact them;
- act promptly and courteously to put things right when they make a mistake;
- otherwise ensure that customer service arrangements and processes are complete, thorough, fit for purpose and transparent.
Four “core” tariffs per fuel (electricity and gas) will be the limit that any supplier can offer. This will apply to each payment type. Suppliers will be allowed to offer these tariffs to collective switching schemes. They will also be able to offer extra fixed term tariffs into schemes that meet their criteria.
Standing charge and a single unit rate for all tariffs and suppliers can set the standing charge at zero if they wish
Dual fuel and online account management discounts remain. They will not be considered as “core tariffs” but as a discount. They will be simplified and will apply uniformly across all tariffs as £/pence per year. For example, a supplier would be able to offer a direct debit customer a choice of no more than four electricity and four gas tariffs. The customer could then choose a dual fuel discount and an online account management discount.
Existing, expensive “dead tariffs” (i.e. tariffs that are no longer marketed) – customers must be transferred onto the cheapest variable rate. A supplier will only be able to keep consumers on dead tariffs if they are cheaper, or as cheap, as the supplier’s lowest standard or evergreen tariff.
Ban from increasing prices on fixed term deals or making other changes to fixed term tariffs (except trackers or structured price increases set out in advance which are fully in line with consumer protection law).
Ban from rolling forward household customers onto fixed term contracts without their consent.
42-49 day window before customers’ end date of their fixed term tariff for them to decide if they want to stay with the supplier or switch.
Requirement to give all customers personalised information on the cheapest tariff offered for them. This information will appear on each bill and on a range of other customer communications.
All information suppliers send to consumers is to be simplified, more engaging and personalised to them.
Tariff Comparison Rate (TCR) – all suppliers’ communications to provide “at a glance” information to help customers compare tariffs. The TCR will be similar to the APR comparison rate used with credit cards. Ofgem is also requiring suppliers to provide personalised estimates which take account of a customer’s usage to enable them to compare tariffs more accurately when switching.
Tariff information label will set out key terms and conditions as well as relevant information to help consumers compare across suppliers.
Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards
The Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards are guaranteed standards of service levels that must be met by each distribution company. The Direction was made by GEMA and took effect in October 2010. These standards have been set to guarantee a level of service that is reasonable to expect companies to deliver in all cases.
If the distribution company fails to meet the level of service required, it must make a payment to the customer subject to certain exemptions which are:
- severe weather makes it impossible to restore the supply
- strikes or industrial action
- you’re out when the energy company visits and you knew they were coming
- you cancel an appointment.
Payments under the guaranteed standards compensate for the inconvenience caused by loss of supply. They are not designed to compensate customers for subsequent financial loss.
Ofgem monitors and enforces the guaranteed standards relating to quality of supply.
The guaranteed standards cover 12 key service areas, including supply restoration, connections and voltage quality, and for the consumer cover situations when:
- you report a faulty prepayment meter to your supplier and someone is not sent to repair or replace it within a specified time
- the supplier doesn’t arrive within agreed time slot for a visit to your home
- the supplier doesn’t respond to your written enquiries within a certain time limit gas supply is interrupted because of a fault – you may be entitled to a compensation payment, depending on for how long it is off. It must be restored within a specified time depending on the weather and the number of homes affected.
- the supplier does not give two days or more written notice when an electricity distributor plans to interrupt your supply (example here)
- a gas transporter digs up your garden or driveway and any damage caused by the work is not made good within ten days
- you are on the Priority Services Register and your gas supply is interrupted but you are not given alternative heating and cooking facilities within four hours.
Energy suppliers are signed up to Ofgem’s back-billing principle. If the supplier is at fault for not sending you a bill for more than a year, (and this could be for a number of reasons including, not dealing with requests from you about a faulty meter or account and subsequently allowing a large debt to build, failing to process a direct debit or just failing to send you a bill) then you do not have to pay. There are some reasons when this doesn’t apply, such as if you make no attempt to make a payment. Should the company not honour this principle then follow their complaints procedure.
For more details about complaining to energy companies including advice, tips and templates see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!