MPs have criticised the energy regulator Ofgem for being too slow at implementing changes in the sector to protect customers this winter.
The newly formed Energy Security and Net Zero Committee has warned that Ofgem’s new, toughened set of consumer standards will not make a “significant difference” for households, as they won’t be introduced until December.
In its first published report, ‘Preparing for Winter,’ the committee called on Ofgem and the suppliers it oversees to adopt a more “proactive culture” in improving consumer standards.
“We expect Ofgem to be quicker in challenging energy companies where they are failing to deliver quality customer service,” the committee said.
It also argued energy suppliers “should not wait to be enforced to certain standards by Ofgem,” and instead need to be “innovating to improve customer satisfaction.”
Ofgem has outlined new consumer standards for suppliers following a statutory consultation, focused around boosting customer service.
This includes earlier interventions to identify and offer support such as temporary repayment holidays for customers struggling with bills, and 24/7 emergency support for households cut off from their power or gas supply due to issues with their supplier, such as meter faults.
It has also demanded enquiry lines to stay open longer, including evenings and weekends – and be easier to contact via multiple methods such as email, web-chat or other digital-based platforms.
The watchdog has previously faced criticism for acting too slowly to fix issues within the industry, bearing the brunt of criticism from the government over the widespread usage of forced prepayment meter installations, and from consumer watchdogs over the domestic energy crisis which saw 30 suppliers collapse.
The report also called on the government and the wider industry to unveil more support for customers this winter, and to consider implementing a social tariff targeted at vulnerable energy users.
Households face the prospect of historically elevated energy bills this winter – with the price cap set at £1.923 in the fourth quarter of this year.
This comes after the government discontinued support packages for households this summer.
An Ofgem spokesperson said: “Our first priority is to protect consumers, particularly the most vulnerable. We have already made clear to suppliers that we expect them to treat their customers with compassion and adhere to the rules in place requiring them to be proactive in identifying those who might be struggling and providing appropriate advice and support.
“Where suppliers are not meeting these rules, we have shown we will not hesitate to take action, levying multi-million pound fines against firms providing poor customer service.”