ACTION ON ENERGY BILLS... Charities, consumer groups and energy suppliers assemble to find solutions for households this winter
● In the midst of the cost of living crisis, charities and energy suppliers assembled to find better ways to support consumers this winter
● The group agreed to work on a series of immediate changes that can be implemented as soon as possible. This includes being clear on how exactly direct debits are set, working together to ask the regulator to shift the burden away from standing charges, creating a unified tool to help vulnerable customers get the support they need, and energy firms providing more direct support to consumer debt charities.
This is a joint press release statement, agreed by all parties who attended the meeting.
Friday 8th July 2022: On Wednesday, MoneySavingExpert, Martin Lewis, and representatives from leading charities Citizens Advice, National Energy Action and StepChange met with the CEO’s of OVO, British Gas, Octopus, E.ON, EDF and Shell to discuss the crisis facing many families this winter.
With energy bills set to increase and global gas prices still volatile, this group of leading charities and energy companies assembled to find ways to support struggling customers this winter.
With all attendees aligned on the unprecedented challenges ahead, the group agreed to work together on changes that can be implemented before the winter. These included the following:
- To improve the understanding of how direct debits levels are set, energy suppliers agreed to make their calculations available so the rationale for increases or decreases can be better understood.
- Energy suppliers will explore setting up a priority call line for National Energy Action and StepChange advisors so that consumers who need energy supplier specific support the most can receive it as quickly as possible.
- To investigate working together to ask the regulator to shift the burden in the price cap away from the standing charge – though ensuring protections are in place for vulnerable customers with high usage (such as some disabled people).
- To ensure that those who simply cannot pay are treated fairly, energy suppliers agreed to work together with debt charities on a collective set of debt collection principles for unpaid energy bills.
- Energy suppliers agreed to explore publishing full tariff information for deals that are only available to their existing customers to allow everyone to make an informed choice on the best value tariff available to them and to enable third parties such as MoneySavingExpert to be able to help with this decision.
- A co-branded universal tool will be created in partnership with energy providers and advice charities that can go across multiple sites and touch points to help consumers understand the support they could be due based on their circumstances.
- To work together to provide clear information for the next Meter Reading Day, so consumers know who should and who shouldn’t be providing readings.
- To support better implementation of the Government's £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme grant, energy suppliers agreed to sign up to a set of clear guidance, made publicly available so that everyone can rest assured that they are getting the support the Government intended them to.
- To support more families struggling with their finances this winter, energy suppliers agreed to explore giving additional financial support to the NEA, Citizens Advice and StepChange over and above existing schemes funded by individual suppliers.
Whilst work is well underway to implement the positive changes outlined, the attendees have agreed to reconvene in September to see what more can be done to support customers.
Martin Lewis, founder of Money Saving Expert said: “The aim of this meeting was to cut the crap and get together with the leaders of the big firms, without government or regulators, to work together on the low-hanging fruit. It was a very productive, fast and action-orientated two hours.
“Yet far more is needed, and that must come from a functioning government. This winter will be catastrophic, the hideous spikes in wholesale energy will translate by October into Ofgem setting a price cap for a typical bill of around £3,000 a year – close to four times what some paid just two years go. It will push millions into poverty.
“The Conservative party must ensure there is a very quick succession process. We need a working and informed administration to tackle this at speed to forestall a very dangerous situation.”
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Founder of OVO said: “In the energy crisis, energy companies need to be fighting for lower costs and finding new ways to help customers. This is going to be a very difficult winter for millions of customers. The problem is so big that we really need more support for vulnerable customers from the Government, but we also need to do everything we can to help as much as possible.
“Getting everyone around the table to find ways to help customers through this was a crucial first step. There is a lot of work to do but this meeting was a good start.”
Notes to editors:
Roundtable attendees included:
Charities and consumer groups:
● Adam Scorer, CEO, NEA
● Gary Caffell, Energy and Utilities Editor, MoneySavingExpert
● Morgan Wild, Head of Policy, Citizens Advice
● Martin Lewis, CEO, MoneySavingExpert
● Phil Andrew, CEO, StepChange
● Chris O’Shea, CEO, British Gas
● Greg Jackson, CEO, Octopus
● Michael Lewis, CEO, E.ON UK
● Simone Rossi, CEO, EDF Energy
● Stephen Fitzpatrick, Founder, OVO
● Tony Keeling, CEO, Shell Energy
About Martin Lewis
Martin Lewis CBE, Money Saving Expert, is the journalist and consumer campaigner who created MoneySavingExpert.com and is now the site’s Executive Chair. Martin also founded and chairs the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute charity. He’s regularly been named the UK’s most-googled man, Citizens Advice’s Consumer Champion of the Year, and has spearheaded major financial justice campaigns including bank charges reclaiming (over seven million template letters downloaded), PPI reclaiming (over six million), successfully taking on Facebook to reduce the number of scam ads, and ran a successful large-scale campaign to get financial education in schools – including personally funding over 300,000 textbooks. In 2020, he also set up the Coronavirus Poverty Fund, funding over £3m to 400+ UK charities. He has his own weekly award-winning prime-time ITV programme, The Martin Lewis Money Show LIVE, as well as a range of other regular media slots.
MoneySavingExpert.com is dedicated to cutting consumers’ bills and fighting their corner. The free-to-use consumer finance help resource aims to show people how to save money on anything and everything, and campaigns for financial justice. It was set up in 2003 for just £100, and its free-to-use, ethical stance quickly made it the UK’s biggest independent money website, according to internet ranking site Alexa.com, and the number one ‘Business and Finance – Business Information’ site, according to Hitwise. It has more than 8.5 million people opted-in to receive the weekly MSE’s Money Tips email, and more than 11.2 million unique monthly site users who visit more than 20 million times a month, including the MSE Forum, which has more than two million registered users. In September 2012, it joined the MoneySupermarket.com Group PLC.
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