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The energy market and people with mental health problems

24 May 2018

The energy market and people with mental health problems [ 0.82 mb] is a piece of ethnographic research examining the lived experience of people with mental health problems, and how they interact with energy providers. A comparative look at these issues across telecoms, water, financial services and energy can be found in Essential service markets and people with mental health problems [ 0.9 mb].

This was conducted by Britainthinks on behalf of Citizens Advice, and sits alongside Beyond good practice guides: improving support with essential services for people with mental health problems [ 0.75 mb].

This research finds that customers with mental health problems:

  • Can go through periods in which they will totally disengage with their provider and accounts (and may not have informal support networks they can rely on for support during this time).
  • Can find it challenging to be proactive in their communications with energy providers even when the cost of inaction is high (and especially if they need to do so over the phone).
  • May be unable to leave the house or interact with others during periods of poor mental health, leaving those with prepayment meters reliant on others to top up on their behalf or at risk of going with energy.
  • Can struggle to engage effectively with competitive markets, especially when proactive switching is necessary in order to get the best package or deal.
  • Can find it hard to engage effectively with competitive markets when exposed to more aggressive sales techniques. Such practices may lead to customers signing up to products/services that are unsuitable for them.
  • Can struggle to budget and control spending in other areas of their lives that end up impacting on energy accounts.
  • Are not always able to find the ‘right moment’ to disclose their mental health problem to energy providers or are reluctant to do so due to concerns over data security, fear of being labelled and lack of clarity around the benefits.

There is clear appetite for changes to provider practice among people with mental health problems. If done well, they would represent a step-change in energy provision for consumers with mental health problems.