Consumer protection front and centre for the Utility Regulator

02 April 2019

Today, on foot of publishing a new Corporate Strategy for 2019-2024 last week, the Utility Regulator launched its new three year Consumer Protection Programme, aimed at protecting and empowering domestic energy and water consumers in Northern Ireland.

Jenny Pyper, Chief Executive of the Utility Regulator explained further:

“Protecting consumers has always been at the heart of the work of the Utility Regulator. Our new Consumer Protection Programme aims to further focus and enhance this work, and specifically target areas that will improve services and produce positive outcomes for energy and water consumers, especially those more vulnerable.  

“The aim of the Consumer Protection Programme is to bring improved clarity, consistency and best practice to consumer protection in Northern Ireland’s energy and water industries. We plan to do this through a number of projects, including enhancing existing protections through a best practice framework for those consumers who experience an unexpected change in situation, review how energy suppliers communicate with customers in debt, review guaranteed standards of service for electricity consumers and set up partnerships to ensure the delivery of these key projects.

“Often vulnerable consumers miss out on the benefits of competition as they do not, or cannot, take the opportunities available, such as seeking lower tariffs or accessing the full range of services available. This means that our regulation must be tailored to ensure that all consumers can benefit from competition and choice. We are committed to achieving a fair outcome for those more vulnerable consumers and to meeting head-on the challenges this will bring.”   

Dermot Nolan, Chief Executive of Ofgem, the energy regulator for Great Britain, who spoke at the launch said:

“I support the Utility Regulator’s new Consumer Protection Programme for Northern Ireland’s energy and water industries. Ofgem, like the Utility Regulator in Northern Ireland, exists to protect customers in Great Britain, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances.

“In 2013, Ofgem was the first regulator to publish a consumer vulnerability strategy but we recognise that we need to do more.

“Later this year we will update our strategy to help consumers in vulnerable circumstances get the protection they need as we move towards a more complex, digitalised energy system of the future.”