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Ofgem sets its sights on ‘new normal’ as relaxed regulations come to an end

Image: Ofgem.

Image: Ofgem.

Regulations will come back into full force from 1 July, Ofgem has signalled in an open letter to suppliers.

A degree of flexibility was brought in at the beginning of April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing suppliers to deprioritise areas like smart meter installation and routine maintenance.

This helped to mitigate the “far-reaching and difficult to predict” impact of the pandemic on energy suppliers, the letter stated, but Ofgem has now updated its approach to reflect the UK's entering a new phase of the crisis.

The regulator has said that for the most part, suppliers are now able to enter homes and continue operations, and it therefore expects them to be able to comply with regulations. As part of this, suppliers must now take 'all reasonable steps' to deliver the smart meter rollout within the current framework.

A number of different suppliers have already restarted smart meter installations, with EDF, E.On, npower, SSE, OVO and British Gas among the companies to restart operations.

While it expects much of these services to be up and running once more, Ofgem will still take a pragmatic view of compliance it said. In particular for areas where face-to-face appointments with customers are necessary, such as smart meter installations, it recognises there remains practical challenges with social distancing.

Jonathan Brearley, the chief executive at Ofgem, said the regulator “recognise(s) that things can change quickly and suppliers will need to adapt to the evolving circumstances”.

Additionally, the letter sets out expectations for suppliers to support customers struggling with energy costs.

“Suppliers should continue to work hard to minimise any disruption or harm to customers, and should continue the current direction of travel towards a new normal,” continued Brearley.

He advises that government advise should take precedence over the letter, and added: “We recognise this is an evolving situation, and where issues arise that are unavoidable consequences of the continuing effects of COVID-19 we will – as always – continue to take a pragmatic approach to compliance.”

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