Utility Week

UTILITY Week 11th July 2014

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26 | 11th - 17th July 2014 | utIlIty WEEK Customers This week British Gas pays out £1m for mis-selling Ofgem says supplier's staff made exaggerated savings claims to prospective customers British Gas has paid a £1 million penalty for mis-selling to cus- tomers in Sainsbury's stores and at Westfield shopping centre. The supplier has paid £566,000 in direct compensation to affected customers and a fur- ther £434,000 to help vulnerable customers via the British Gas Energy Trust. Ofgem said the supplier's staff made exaggerated sav- ings claims to prospective customers between February 2011 and March 2013. Sales staff did not compare tariffs on a like-for-like basis, comparing monthly direct debit with quarterly payment methods to exaggerate savings. In some cases, customers were told that they would save money by switching, but in fact they paid more with Sainsbury's Energy or British Gas than they would have paid if they had remained with their existing supplier. British Gas has made direct payments of an average of £130 to customers it has identified who were poten- tially mis-sold. It was unable to contact around 1,300 former customers and this compensation is part of the £434,000 that will go to directly benefit customers via the British Gas Energy Trust. British Gas became aware of a problem, and reported it to Ofgem in April 2013. It took immediate action to correct the issues. Its prompt action led the regulator to accept a consumer package instead of opening a formal investigation. Ofgem's senior partner in charge of enforcement, Sarah Harrison, said: "Ofgem welcomes British Gas's action to tackle its sales failures and compensate customers quickly when it became aware of mis-selling." EB EnErgy Npower ahead of target to cut late bills Npower has reduced its late bill backlog by more than its target. The company reduced its late bills to 343,000 accounts – beating its target of 350,000 – and there has been a fall in complaints; it received 132,821 in May and 120,016 in June. Of these complaints, 15,683 were unresolved aer 24 hours in May, while 10,788 remained unresolved in June. The company claims it is now clearing 88 per cent of com- plaints within 24 hours and has revealed plans to invest £20 mil- lion in order to resolve the issue, adding a further 650 members of staff to its workforce. Domestic retail director Roger Hattam said: "As we said last month, we remain confident and committed to getting our late bills down to 65,000 customers – 2 per cent of our customer base – by the end of August and to reduce our complaint levels substan- tially by the end of the year." WatEr No hosepipe ban, says Severn Trent Severn Trent has reassured customers that it does not expect to enforce a hosepipe ban this year, despite Britain having had one of the warmest Junes since 1910, when records began. The company said resources were in a secure position despite July average UK temperatures marking the seventh consecutive month of higher temperatures. Severn Trent water resources strategy manager Marcus O'Kane said: "It may have been warm over the past few months, but it's also been raining and this has kept our water resources in good supply." EnErgy Installations of insulation fall 60% The number of energy efficiency installations in UK homes has fallen by 60 per cent, according to the Energy Bill Revolution (EBR) campaign group. The report, commissioned by EBR and conducted by the Association for the Conserva- tion of Energy, revealed that the number of major insulation measures (cavity, lo and solid wall insulation) installed fell from 1.65 million in 2012/13 to 661,000 in 2013/14. EBR said this collapse was projected to continue over the next year, with only 507,000 measures likely to be installed. The group – an alliance of 180 charities, businesses and unions – said the fall was caused by the government decision to axe the Warm Front scheme, the "abject failure" of the Green Deal, and the "poorly designed" Energy Company Obligation (Eco). British Gas mis-sold in Sainsbury's stores I am the customer Brian Taylor "Competitive water retail has given us access to exceptional expertise." We exist to help and support the people who use our services, many of whom don't have the resources to do this themselves. And to provide our services to as many people in need as possible, we have to make every pound work twice as hard. Saving costs is a large part of this. As is maximising time and staff resources. We realised early on that streamlining our operations would be an important way to save money. But even we were and eliminate waste. The single point of reference has also freed up time for staff – an invaluable resource in any charity. The competitive water retail market has been good for us. It's given us access to exceptional expertise and useful new ser- vices, while driving down costs. Ultimately, it's helping us to be more efficient and effective for the people who use our services. And really, that's the whole point. Brian Taylor, energy manager, CrossReach surprised by how much we ended up shaving from our bills by working with Business Stream. We saved £49,000 just by improving our water efficiency. That's a lot of money to an organisation like ours and will help us to deliver our services more effectively. A key challenge was the vast network of sites we have across Scotland, each with separate bills. Business Stream worked closely with us to consolidate our water services and consump- tion data into a centralised portfolio that can now be viewed and managed electronically. That's helped us realign our sup- ply with our actual requirements

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