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With the growing numbers of energy supplier insolvencies, the Insolvency Service wants to support and encourage the flexible and considerate treatment of customers, particularly those who had outstanding debts at the time of the insolvency.

The Insolvency Service is keen to ensure that insolvency practitioners (IPs) act in accordance with the Code of Ethics in relation to how they fulfil their statutory responsibilities, and particularly that they:

  • take an approach that ensures their conduct does not discredit the profession; and
  • conduct themselves with courtesy and consideration to all whom they come into contact with when performing their work.

The Code of Ethics provisions also extend to include actions undertaken by any third party an IP may contract to assist with the insolvency proceedings. Its framework supports particular care being taken by IPs who delegate or sub-contract work – for example to debt-collection agents; and IPs are therefore supported in ensuring that suitable oversight and control mechanisms are in place to avoid potential harm.

The Insolvency Service is particularly keen to encourage IPs to:

  • actively consider whether previous arrangements that an insolvent energy supplier may have had in place relating to vulnerable consumers, particularly in relation to flexible repayment plans on outstanding debts, should be continued;
  • ensure that all communications with consumers be subject to careful consideration, particularly in providing accurate contact details for customers, and trained staff to deal with a likely high volume of calls; and
  • ensure that all communications to consumers avoids the risk of, and concerns about, consumers being scammed or subject to undue pressure.

There are also some reminders from the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem).

  • It is critically important to provide the incoming supplier (who will be a Supplier of Last Resort (SoLR) in appointments made so far) with the data needed to enable consumers’ experience through the transfer as quickly and smoothly as is possible, such as systems and billing data, and staffing information, in particular.
  • Ofgem will also be taking a close interest in any fees charged and will wish to be assured that those are fair and reasonable.
  • That IPs can support the Citizens Advice Extra Help Unit by quickly providing correct staff contact details to help resolve off-supply cases in the SoLR process. The EHU has highlighted some problems around resolving off-supply cases and the full support of IPs can be key to successful and prompt resolution.

Ofgem’s open letters from 2019 and 2020 are still relevant in relation to the treatment of customers, and backbilling.

Open letter to energy suppliers and insolvency practitioners who undertake charge recovery action | Ofgem (2020)

Open letter to insolvency practitioners appointed to failed Energy Supply companies | Ofgem (2019)

The Insolvency Service is regularly updating the RPBs with details of those IPs appointed to deal with the insolvencies of energy supplier company failure. It has reached out to those officeholders already appointed, to discuss these issues with them, along with any IPs’ concerns. The Insolvency Service will be keeping in close contact with the RPBs about monitoring and IP performance in these areas, given the very high number of consumers affected.