Fuel Poverty

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy written question – answered on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if the Government will make an assessment of the potential merits of implementing a fuel poverty debt relief programme for winter 2020-21.

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Department is working with Ofgem to assess the level and impact of domestic consumer energy debt this winter and we will continue to review options to support energy customers in debt, including those in or at risk of fuel poverty.

Ofgem rules require energy suppliers to offer customers at risk of, or in debt, the facility to repay their debt in instalments. Suppliers are also required to take all reasonable steps to take into account a customers ability to pay when calculating this. Ofgem issued an open letter in June, stating they would “not tolerate sharp practice or aggressive debt collection and suppliers could face enforcement action where this is the case”.

The Department secured an agreement with energy companies on 19th March 2020 to support their customers impacted by Covid-19, that, based on the circumstances could include reassessing, reducing or pausing debt repayments for households in financial distress. Companies have also agreed to refer customers who are struggling to pay their bills to third party debt advisors.

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