Regulators call on firms to support customers amid cost of living crisis

FCA, Ofgem, Ofcom and Ofwat have published a joint Dear CEO letter calling on firms to support customers struggling with the increased cost of living and keep prices fair.

The letter notes FCA’s Financial Lives 2023 survey finding that 11% of UK adults have missed payments on domestic bills or credit commitments in 3 or more of the previous 6 months.

The shared expectations for firms across the financial services, energy, water and communications sectors are that they:

  • Consider the customer’s situation, recognising that they may have multiple debts across sectors, and reflect this in the support they offer.
  • Proactively raise awareness of the support available, and when customers indicate they are at risk of falling into financial difficulty, or firms otherwise become aware of this, provide support early.
  • Make it easy for customers to get the support they need, for example by:
    • Providing different communication channels;
    • Recognising that customers in vulnerable circumstances may have particular needs; and
    • Proactively promoting social tariff options where these are available.
  • Tailor support to the customer’s circumstances, and consider using an objective/standardised measure to assess the customer’s financial circumstances to help minimise the burden of them having to provide different information to different firms.
  • Make referrals and provide information at the right time so customers can access advice and support that meets their needs.
  • Monitor customer outcomes and take action to put things right if they go wrong.

As a next step, the regulators will also consider what their shared expectations are in relation to debt collection.

Laura Wiles