Regulators have “more to do” to support vulnerable customers

The NAO says regulators have improved their understanding of vulnerability, but have not yet translated their aims into detailed objectives.

Regulators have “more to do” to support vulnerable customers

A report, Vulnerable consumers in regulated industries, from the National Audit Office calls for regulators and government to work closer together to improve support for vulnerable consumers.

The report says regulators in the water, energy, telecommunications and financial services sectors could do more to support the increasing number of vulnerable consumers.

The NAO said regulators’ duties to protect vulnerable consumers can conflict with other measures designed to benefit consumers in general, and regulatory interventions alone can be insufficient to protect all vulnerable consumer groups.

For example, intervening to prevent large price differences between deals might adversely affect competition, but many vulnerable groups are substantially less likely to switch to cheaper deals.

The report also highlights the role of trade associations in working with regulators to improve support for customers in vulnerable circumstance, citing the work of the British Bankers’ Association’s Vulnerability Taskforce as an example.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said regulators and the government need to work closer together to clarify their respective responsibilities if overall support for vulnerable consumers is to be value for money.