ScottishPower today launches a new hardship fund to help some of its customers who are among the most vulnerable in society . The company will commit initial funding of £5.2m over two years, 2015 and 2016.
The fund will be used to offer financial support to customers facing wider financial hardship and who are in arrears on their ScottishPower account. It will be available to customers who fit the following criteria:
Have a debt for energy supplied by ScottishPower, having been financially unable to pay their energy bills and so have built up arrears, and
Be a person or household who is suffering from financial distress or hardship, and
Have made contact with a recognised debt advice agency, such as National Debtline, to understand how to manage their income and expenditure, and
Show the ability to manage their current financial situation by making regular payments for ongoing usage (or agreed instalments) for at least 3 full months.
Social Enterprise Direct Ltd has been appointed to act as an independent administrator of the fund. They are based in Glasgow and are part of the Citizens Advice Direct umbrella.
From 2017 ScottishPower will add unclaimed credits from customers to the hardship fund, once they are 2 years old. This will not alter ScottishPower’s clear commitment to refund credit to existing and previous customers.
ScottishPower has been returning credits to customers, using tracing agencies and other means to reunite customers with tens of millions of pounds. However, in some cases it is not possible to credits to customers.
Neil Clitheroe, ScottishPower CEO of retail and generation, said: “No matter how hard we try, sometimes we simply cannot reunite customers with their unclaimed credits when they switch. We think that it makes sense to use this money in a hardship fund to provide assistance for some of our most vulnerable customers in these tough economic times.”
The hardship fund will award grants between £100 and £3,000. Each application will be dealt with on a case by case basis, with consideration given to budget availability within the Fund at any given time. Any award will be appropriate to the size of the debt owed and the individual circumstances and at the discretion of the fund.
Applications for a grant can be made either via a form (which can be downloaded or requested) which is signed by the customer, or via a recorded telephone call, or confirmed with a declaration for online applications. More details can be found at www.scottishpower.co.uk/hardship-fund
What are Unclaimed Credits?
Unclaimed credits can materialise in two main ways. This may include when a customer moves home without providing new contact details for the final bill. This final bill may have a debt or a credit. Typically, the cost of debt written off by ScottishPower is 10 times larger than credits.
In addition, customers who move home or switch and do not provide final actual meter readings may have a debt or a credit. Without a final meter reading there is no way of calculating an accurate final bill. An estimated bill would be produced, and efforts would be made to contact the customer to confirm its accuracy.
Through the use of tracing agencies and cleansing accounts on billing system, over the last 12 months, ScottishPower has returned an additional £15 million to more than 300,000 customers. This is above normal business as usual processes, which includes 90% of customers who have changed supplier receiving their refund automatically, usually within 14 days of their final bill. Any customer can claim their valid credit balance at any point in time, no matter how old.
ScottishPower is also now part of the industry campaign initiative to reunite former customers with unclaimed credits called “MyEnergyCredit”.