Anne Main calls for more help for vulnerable people in fuel poverty to switch tariffs

3rd July 2017

Anne Main asks the Government to ensure more is done to identify vulnerable groups living in fuel poverty to ensure they have the best advice and information about switching tariffs.

May I tell the Secretary of State that the latest data show that 2,687 households in my constituency are estimated to be in fuel poverty? That is 6.6% of all households. What more can be done to identify these vulnerable groups and ensure that they have the best advice and information about switching tariffs? The suggestion that people search online is not the way forwards. Perhaps it would be more helpful to have a better dialogue between the consumer and the energy provider.

 

I agree with my hon. Friend. One feature of the energy market is that the poorer someone is, the larger the proportion of their income that they spend on energy. That is why it is imperative that vulnerable consumers should not be required go on the internet every few months to check that their tariff has not defaulted to a much higher one. That was the reason for my letter to Ofgem, and it is why I want its response to be vigorous. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that an aspect of the wider set of policies is to make it easier for consumers to know the price of energy and how much they consume, and smart meters are being introduced to help more people to do that.

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A response is required from the regulator; this is a regulated industry. The development of modern markets means that it is possible for suppliers, especially dominant ones, to identify the customers who are the least likely to switch. As my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) said, they are often among the most vulnerable. It is unacceptable to use that information to sting them, and regulation has to catch up with that.

 

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