Supplementary written evidence submitted by E.ON (WIN0058)

 

 

After the Committee witness session of 6 Sept 2023, we agreed to provide further details of:

1)      Expanded support for customers struggling with bills

2)      Details of how we are responding to the proposals currently in development by Ofgem to mandate certain levels of customer service, as well as other specific customer service issues, namely:

a)      Opening hours

b)      How we are making available information on customer service performance to inform customer choice; and

c)       How we are helping customers who are digitally excluded, without internet access

 

 

1)      Expanded support for customers struggling with bills

Last year, the Government provided tens of billions of pounds of support that helped to mitigate the worst effects of the crisis for families and businesses. This was welcomed by the retail energy sector as a timely and necessary intervention. Despite this, we know that some of our customers will have been making some hard choices to try and pay their bills. Many of those actions will have been both undesirable and unrepeatable, such as building up credit card debt, selling possessions, and using savings.

Our customer data for the first eight months of 2023 points to some worrying trends. For those who pay for their energy on a quarterly basis in arrears, we are seeing the amount of accumulated debt grow over the Spring and Summer. This is unprecedented, as we would typically see customers begin to pay back any debt on their account as consumption falls over this period. For around 100,000 of our customers in particular, the data is showing that they have been unable to pay anything towards their debt or their ongoing energy use since summer 2022.

All the evidence is pointing to an even more challenging winter this year than last, especially against the backdrop of a broader cost of living crisis. In response, we have recruited over 1,000 frontline employees to directly support our customers and set out to the Select Committee this week, E.ON’s winter package of support totalling £82m for our most vulnerable customers.

There is only so much we and the sector can do for customers who are struggling with the cost of living, we call on Government to consult on how targeted financial support, such as a permanent social tariff, can be implemented.  One idea we have put to Government is to expand the existing Warm Home Discount rebate scheme so that it covered the 8m households on means tested benefits and increase the size of the rebate to £300.  This could only be afforded by Government rather than socialising the costs onto energy bills.

There are examples from other countries which highlight alternative ways of supporting customers.  In the Netherlands, the Government are working with energy suppliers to create a joint fund with which to support customers struggling to pay. Our sister company in the Netherlands, Essent, would be happy to provide further details to the Committee on this if useful.

Our overarching message to Government and to the Committee however is if we are to permanently cut energy bills for everyone, we need to be bolder and have a long-term infrastructure plan over 20 years that makes sure that every home in the country has the best levels of energy efficiency. This will require cross party support covering multiple Parliaments, but the rewards are huge. A long-term plan will unlock tens of billions of private sector investment across all regions of the UK, creating up to 100,000 well paid skilled jobs, and supporting small and medium sized businesses. It is a genuine levelling up project which E.ON is ready to back and invest against.

 

2)      Details of how we are responding to the proposals currently in development by Ofgem to mandate certain levels of customer service, as well as other specific customer service issues

Ofgem are currently developing proposals on standards of service for all energy suppliers. Ofgem is expected to workshop further development of their proposals later this year, with their final decision in October with implementation from December 2023. Ofgem is therefore still gathering feedback from a range of stakeholders on the asks it will make of suppliers; this part of the consultation process is important to ensure the draft proposals are effective, practical and deliver Ofgem’s aims. The draft proposals as currently understood are therefore still subject to change.

The following details specific customer service standard details the Committee requested from us:

Customer service standard:

Do E.ON already meet the standard and what more are we doing?

 

Finding methods of contacting suppliers

Yes - E.ON Next provides all contact methods available to customers one click away from its website homepage.

 

In addition, all correspondence includes key methods of contact and the web address to identify further methods (further digital options).

 

Different methods of contact 

Yes - we offer a range of contact methods including phone, email, various social media channels (inc Whatsapp), services for speech or hearing impaired customers, services through language line, customers can visit us face to face in our offices or contact us by post.

 

Opening Hours that meet customer's needs

Yes – as follows:

 

Enquiry Services:

  • Telephony General Enquiries  0900 - 1700 Mon - Thurs and 0900 - 1600 Fridays
  • Telephony Out of Hours Service for prepayment customers 0700 -0900 Mon - Fri, 1700 - 2000 Mon - Thurs and 1600 - 2000 Fi.  0900 - 0000 Sat, 0700 - 0000 Sun
  • Telephony Emergency - Outside of hours
  • Email 24/7 inc. Bank Holidays
  • Whats app 24/7 inc Bank Holidays
  • Social Media 24/7 inc. Bank Holidays

 

Open 24/7 for customers that are experiencing an interruption in supply (metering fault)

 

Open 24/7 for customers that are experiencing an interruption in supply (metering fault)

 

Prioritising vulnerable consumers and representatives acting in the interest of and on behalf of a Domestic Customer in a Vulnerable Situation

Yes - a dedicated team supports PPM & smart PAYG customers. We are in the process of extending the approach for specific customers with vulnerabilities who are registered on the PSR or are struggling to pay their bills.

 

Contacts through email and social media channels are assessed for content that indicates an emergency situation and prioritised.   We have Digital teams receiving and responding to contacts 24/7 inc. Bank Holidays.

 

We are a signatory to the Energy UK Vulnerable Commitment.
 

Priority access to customer support groups

To ensure third parties are able to contact us, we have a range of options available:
Extra Help Unit (EHU) – dedicated phone line open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm
• Citizens Advice call centres – dedicated phone line Mon-Thurs 9am-5pm and Friday (9am4pm
• Citizens Advice offices, StepChange and National Energy Action – dedicated phone number which directs calls to our Affordability and Vulnerability Teams.

 

Free to access for vulnerable consumers at risk of detriment

Yes - In line with Ofgem’s current consideration of best practice in this area, E.ON Next provides a freephone number to all domestic customers

 

Proactively contacting customers struggling to pay

Yes - When an E.ON Next on demand customer has not paid their bill within 14 days, they enter an engagement and collections journey which is determined by their credit risk score, level of debt risk and the contact details that we hold. These journeys include multiple steps and various forms of communication including letters, telephone calls, emails and SMS messages that are aimed at informing the customer of the ways we can support them and prompting them to get in touch so we can help. Through these communications we also signpost to external help and support.

 

Signpost customers to performance data

Along with other suppliers, we submit performance data to Citizen’s Advice which is published every quarter and includes average wait times and response times. Compare energy suppliers' customer service - Citizens Advice

Our complaints and other performance is detailed in depth on our website here: Our performance as an energy supplier | E.ON Next (eonnext.com)

 

Helping customers who are digitally excluded, without internet access

 

We are accessible to customers who are not digitally engaged in a number of ways.

 

  • We offer contact via telephone, face to face in our offices and by post. Our telephone number and office address are on our bills
  • We offer an option of all correspondence by post, including through braille, large print and audio.
  • Customers can make payments via non digital channels, including Paypoint, Payzone, Post Office or post a cheque.
  • We offer free telephone numbers to all customers and we don't deflect customers to on-line services.
  • We offer contact channels through Language Line and Relay UK.

 

 

September 2023