Energy UK is the trade association for the gas and electricity sector. Its membership includes the main energy suppliers in Great Britain – British Gas, EDF Energy, Npower, E.ON, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy.
Under the Energy UK ‘safety net policy’, no vulnerable customer should be disconnected at any time of the year. You are considered to be vulnerable if you are unable to safeguard your personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of your household because of ‘age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity’.1Energy UK, The Energy UK Safety Net: Protecting Vulnerable Customers from Disconnection, February 2016, available at
The safety net policy complements and supports the regulations contained within suppliers’ licences. Although not legally binding, the policy could be used as a negotiating tool to avoid disconnection if you believe that you should be treated as vulnerable. Examples of what constitutes ‘vulnerable’ for the purpose of the code include:
•you care for an elderly person in your household;
•you have a disability or a chronic health condition;
•the household includes young children, aged five or under;
•you have a mental health or a developmental condition;
•a carer, social worker, health visitor or other professional has indicated that someone in the household is vulnerable.
The safety net encourages suppliers to work with charities and advice agencies to identify vulnerability.
If you are not identified as a vulnerable customer until after the disconnection has taken place, you should be reconnected as a priority. The safety net identifies 24 hours as being a reasonable timescale, or sooner if you have a smart meter.2Energy UK, The Energy UK Safety Net: Protecting Vulnerable Customers from Disconnection, February 2016. Members of Energy UK include British Gas, EDF Energy, Npower, E.ON, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy Under the Energy UK ‘vulnerability commitment’, effective from 1 January 2021, supplier signatories resolve to adopt a collaborative, proactive and transparent approach when dealing with vulnerable customers.3Energy UK, The Vulnerability Commitment, December 2020. Signatories include British Gas, EDF Energy, Scottish Power, Octopus, Bulb, Utility Warehouse, OVO Energy, Ecotricity, Together Energy, SO Energy, Outfox the Market and E Energy.
It complements and supports existing licence requirements for the protection of vulnerable households, demonstrating a quality benchmark and best practice for compliance. Although not legally binding, the policy could be used as a negotiating tool to encourage signatory suppliers to provide additional support needs to you if are vulnerable. The support includes:
•alerting you to risks of standing charge build-ups on prepayment meters during the summer following (to avoid self-disconnection);
•ensuring uninterrupted supply from a prepayment meter once installed or smart meter recalibrated;
•providing alternative means of contacting suppliers in addition to phone contact;
•providing paper billing communication available where appropriate;
•never knowingly disconnecting a vulnerable customer at any time of year;
•providing a package of support (including energy efficiency and tariff advice and information) for customers using a prepayment meter;
•increasing customer awareness of support available to vulnerable households.