Free, practical consumer advice and information on energy-related matters for the citizens of Scotland
Some people struggle with certain tasks more than others. This makes them vulnerable to facing more problems or getting worse outcomes through no fault of their own. When buying energy, being vulnerable increases health and financial risks. For example, someone who is elderly faces greater risk to their health if their energy supply is cut off and they are unable to heat their home.
Deciding who is vulnerable is not always easy. Some people are vulnerable all the time, while others are only vulnerable some of the time. Someone’s disability may only affect certain actions (e.g. being unable to reach the energy meter but they are confident in speaking to the company on the phone).
Ofgem is a government organisation that makes sure that energy companies obey the law. They have written an official definition to make sure vulnerable people are identified. A vulnerable person is,
- Someone who can’t protect their own interests when they buy energy compared to the typical customer.
- Someone who more likely to be harmed (be that financial or physical or otherwise) than a typical customer.
- Someone who stands to be harmed (be that financial or physical or otherwise) more than a typical customer would.
There is no one thing that can make you vulnerable. It depends on many aspects of your life. You can be made vulnerable by issues with your health, age, caring responsibilities, finances, geographic location and access to information (to name a few). Here are some examples from Ofgem, a government organisation that makes sure that energy companies obey the law:
- If you have a disability (mental or physical)
- If you are elderly
- If you look after someone
- If you are in financial difficulty (e.g. being unable to pay bills or having large debts)
- If you live in an isolated area (e.g. in the countryside)
- If you struggle with speaking, reading or writing.
Here are some examples of how being vulnerable can increase risks or harm to you:
- You can’t access the energy meter.
- You are struggle to read your energy meter.
- You struggle to get into contact with your energy company if you need to.
- You are struggling to pay your bills or pay back your arrears.
- You would be unable to stop the company from disconnecting your supplies.
Ofgem is a government organisation that makes sure that energy companies obey the law. They have the power to make sure that companies keep to their regulations. They protect vulnerable customers by making sure that companies do the following:
- Find out if you are vulnerable. They should keep a list called a Priority Service Register (PSR) of vulnerable customers.
- If you are on the Priority Service Register (PSR), you should be informed of your rights and any changes to your contracts.
- If you are vulnerable, you should be kept safe when you are on a prepayment meter. This means they should not install one unless it is safe, practical and reasonable.
- If you are vulnerable, they should try to stop you from getting too much debt.
- If you are vulnerable and struggling to pay, the company should tell you about advice organisations that can help you.
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