The Priority Services Register
Suppliers are obliged to establish and maintain a Priority Services Register listing customers who:
•are of pensionable age;
•are chronically sick;
•have an impairment;
•have a long-term medical condition;
•have a hearing, mobility or visual impairment or additional communications needs;
•have another vulnerable characteristic or situation;
•have requested to be added to the Priority Services Register.1Condition 26.7 SLC The definition of a vulnerable ‘personal characteristic’ or ‘vulnerable situation’2Condition 26.1(a) SLC is wide-ranging and can include, for example, if you have mental health problems, are unable to communicate in English, or where you need extra support for a limited amount of time – eg, during cancer treatment. Suppliers are expected to take into account the ’Consumer Vulnerability Strategy’ when identifying vulnerability.3Ofgem, Consumer Vulnerability Strategy, 4 July 2013
Someone can make a request on your behalf for you to be added to the register. If you are on the register, you could get:
•free advice on using gas and electricity;
•a password protection scheme;
•a prepayment meter moved to a more accessible location if it is safe to do so;
•a free quarterly meter reading if you are unable to read your meter;
•bills sent to a friend, relative or carer so s/he can help to check it on your behalf;
•extra help if a gas supply is disrupted if all adults living in your property are eligible for the Priority Services Register (such as alternative cooking or heating facilities);
•advance notice if an electricity supply has to be interrupted;
•meter readings and bills provided in a suitable format: braille, large print, audio tape, textphone or typetalk.
You may be entitled to a free, annual gas safety check of appliances and other gas fittings if you are eligible for the Priority Services Register, own your home, receive an income-based benefit and:
•live alone; or
•live with other adults, all of whom are eligible; or
•live with others, at least one of whom is a child aged five or under.4Condition 29 (gas) SLC
If you are a tenant, this obligation is normally upon your landlord.
Suppliers are obliged to ‘take all reasonable steps’ to identify eligible customers to receive Priority Services Register services and promote its existence. This includes having suitable systems in place to help them identify such customers.5Condition 26.1(b) and (c) SLC This is strengthened by the ’Standards of Conduct’ principles6Enforceable principles placed on suppliers by Ofgem to treat consumers fairly, professionally, honestly and transparently in the way they behave, provide information and deliver customer service. – overarching fairness rules placed upon suppliers to engage with customers, identify any genuine needs, particular circumstances and vulnerabilities they have and provide them with appropriate tailored support and services.7Conditions 0 and 0A SLC, Standards of Conduct Suppliers that are signatories to the ‘vulnerability commitment’8Energy UK, The Vulnerability Commitment, December 2020 also agree to equip staff to identify and support vulnerability and ensure that a culture of understanding of vulnerability is embedded throughout. Accordingly, some suppliers have extra care teams or support teams who you should seek assistance from if you are facing arrears and have vulnerabilities. These teams provide additional, tailored support and an easier point of contact if you are vulnerable.
Do you have essential electrical medical equipment at home?
If you are medically reliant on your electricity supply to run equipment such as oxygen concentrators, home dialysis, stair lifts, ventilators or nebulisers, contact your supplier to join the Priority Services Register. You will then get advanced notice of planned power cuts – eg, when maintenance and engineering work is planned. If you have a prepayment meter, your supplier may change it to a standard meter so that your electricity supply is uninterrupted.