Identifying vulnerable customers

FPS chief executive, Mark Askew
FPS chief executive, Mark Askew
A recent report by the Fuel Poverty Action Group (FPAG) calls on fuel oil distributors to establish a priority register for vulnerable customers.
With the FPAG report making reference to the need for fuel oil distributors to keep a priority register for vulnerable customers, Fuel Oil News spoke to Mark Askew, chief executive, Federation of Petroleum Suppliers who said:  “In many cases FPS members already know who their more vulnerable customers are.  One of the benefits of being a regular customer of one particular distributor is that, more often than not, your circumstances are known to that distributor. 
“When buying heating oil, price isn’t always the main driver.  For many customers, it’s more reassuring to know that their supplier knows their circumstances, particularly if they’re elderly, have small children or are struggling to cope with bills.   The FPS can relay many tales of drivers who keep an eye on such customers all year round, even between deliveries.
“In the case of those who prefer to shop around for the best price or place orders on price comparison sites, such information is not usually known. It has already been suggested to government that if distributors were able to access the government’s register of vulnerable households, they would be in a better position to help vulnerable customers.  With such a register covered by the Data Protection Act, we’re still waiting to be advised.”
The FPS Code of Practice is currently under revision and will be updated to include more about vulnerable customers.
Predictions point to 300,000 households being affected by fuel poverty this winter with two million households eligible for help under the Warm Home Discount Scheme.
Following the FPAG report, the government is to launch a new fuel poverty strategy in 2013 to ensure those most in need of help are targeted.  Commenting on the report, a DECC spokesperson said:   “The FPAG has an important part to play in helping us assess our progress in this area and we will now carefully consider the recommendations set out in this report.”
Fuel poverty has been defined as a household spending more than 10% of income on heating.   The FPAG’s tenth annual report predicts that this will apply to around nine million people by 2016.