Utility Warehouse, which is owned by Telecom Plus PLC (LSE:TEP), failed to consistently offer debt repayment plans and energy-efficient advice on bill-reducing techniques to customers between 2013 and 2019, said a report from the energy regulator Ofgem.
Utility Warehouse has agreed to pay a penalty of GBP1.5mln for failing to alleviate disadvantaged customers who experienced rising financial adversity.
The money will go to Ofgem’s Voluntary Redress Fund, which helps vulnerable customers and aids innovation in the energy sector.
Publishing its findings, the regulator said the home services supplier did not consider the customer’s ability to pay when working out instalment payments, nor did it allow expenses to be removed straight from the customer’s benefits.
“Between 2013-2019, Utility Warehouse failed to take the necessary steps to treat some customers in payment difficulty fairly, depriving them of the opportunity to manage their energy debt and ongoing energy costs,” said Cathryn Scott, director of enforcement and emerging issues at Ofgem.
Ofgem, the watchdog for electricity and gas markets, was initially notified of the wrongdoings in 2018 after an audit report, before launching an investigation.
Utility Warehouse informed Ofgem during the investigation that the company gave false Social Obligation Reporting (SOR) data to the regulators, which reviews social obligations, licence requirements, and policy decision performance.
Following its acknowledgement of its failings and enforcement of sufficient measures to prevent reoccurrence, Ofgem dropped the investigation conditional on the GBP1.5mln payment to the fund.
“Where we see poor behaviour, Ofgem will be ready to step in and take swift action,” said Scott.