More customers in vulnerable situations, including those with mental health issues, are to receive extra help under new changes made by Ofgem.
It has broadened eligibility in the Priority Services Register, through which consumers can get free, vital services from network operators and suppliers to help them manage their energy.
They include customers being given a password so they can safely identify representatives who visit their house, readings for customers who struggle to read their meter and advance notice of power cuts and information on any help available during emergencies.
Currently, only customers who are disabled, chronically sick or of pensionable age can get these services. That’s around 3.6 million electricity and three million gas customers.
However Ofgem’s research shows only 24% of consumers are aware the support exists.
Energy suppliers will now be obliged to take all “reasonable steps” to identify more customers in vulnerable situations – including those whose situation is temporary – and offer to place them on the register.
This could incorporate customers with mental health issues which prevent them from understanding their bill or who have injuries which stop them topping up their prepayment meter.
Around 500,000 people who reported mental health issues in the UK last year could now potentially be eligible for the services.
Rachel Fletcher, Senior Partner, Consumers and Competition, said: “Energy is an essential service. We want to see more consumers in vulnerable situations protected. That’s why we’re working with suppliers to make changes to Priority Services so many more consumers get the tailored help that they need.”