Utility Week

Utility Week 5th December 2014

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UTILITY WEEK | 5Th - 11Th DEcEmbEr 2014 | 27 Customers I am the customer Steve Hobbs "Will PR14 be seen as a success for customers?" With less than a month to go before the price review con- cludes, the question remains – will it be seen as a success for customers? Success would be a deal that reflects what customers want, accept and can afford. CCWater recently carried out research with customers from every water company to gauge their views of Ofwat's dra determinations and see whether they met the test of "customer acceptability". Although not comparable to water companies' get in return increased this slightly to 59 per cent. Our research shows the importance of explaining clearly to customers the impact of infla- tion on their bill and showing them what improvements they are getting locally in return. It also suggests there is room for the price review to deliver a deal that is even more accept- able to customers before the process ends on 12 December. Steve Hobbs, senior policy manager, CCWater research, it did uniquely meas- ure the views of customers from every water company using the same method. It tested the ways customers were likely to encoun- ter this information in the real world – from a one-line media statement to a more detailed explanation found in a water company leaflet, for example. It revealed that when custom- ers were presented with basic information about the proposed effect on bills, acceptability levels were high – averaging 74 per cent. Once they were shown the impact inflation could have on their bill, acceptability fell to 55 per cent. Explaining in more detail what services they would This week DCC delay strands smart meter users Lack of industry standard will make it difficult for 'early adopter' customers to switch supplier The latest delay to the belea- guered rollout of smart meters could leave some customers unable to switch suppliers, creating "disenchantment" with the programme before it has properly begun, MPs have been told. The launch of the mass rollout is due to be pushed back to October 2016, meaning the Data and Communications Company (DCC), which is running the programme, has yet to adopt a standard set of specifications for smart meters. The lack of an industry-accepted standard means that customers who have been given a smart meter by an "early adopter" supplier cannot switch to another supplier without potentially losing their smart functionality. British Gas' managing director of smart metering, Jorge Pikunic, told the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee inquiry into progress on the smart meter rollout that getting the DCC to adopt SMETS 1 meters "as early as possible will ensure interoperability happens as soon as possible". He said: "The longer we leave it, the more suppliers have to operate two different infrastructures, adding cost. The sooner we have enrolment to the DCC, the better." Skanska's senior director for smart grids, Robert Murray, told the committee there needs to be a focus on delivery and that the delay "does inhibit switching". He told MPs: "The longer we delay mass rollout, the harder it becomes and customers become more disen- chanted with the programme." MB EnErgY Christmas deadline for 1.5m refunds Energy suppliers have until Christmas to refund as many as 1.5 million gas customers up to £110 aer a fault dating back to 2007 caused prepay gas meters to overcharge customers. Trade association Energy UK said in a statement that a fault in the prepayment meters' calcula- tion affected all meters installed since 2007, adding 2 per cent to the cost of gas or around 25 pence per top-up. In a statement last week, Ofgem called on suppliers to submit a timetable detailing how they will repay consumers, reconfigure the faulty meters and protect customers from overpayment in the meantime. "Suppliers must act quickly to resolve the problem in a way that treats customers fairly. We have not ruled out enforcement action," said Ofgem's senior partner for markets, Rachel Fletcher. EnErgY Ofgem investigation 'disappoints' Utilita Prepay energy supplier Utilita Energy has said it is "very disap- pointed" that Ofgem has opted to investigate it for transfer blocking, saying it believes the issues have been resolved. Ofgem is to investigate Utilita over claims it has been wrongly blocking customers from trans- ferring to other energy compa- nies. But Utilita said it has been working with Ofgem for several months on issues surrounding its systems and training. Utilita managing director, Bill Bullen, told Utility Week: "We have been co-operating with Ofgem for several months on this issue, and are very disap- pointed that they have now decided to take this action." EnErgY Small suppliers still offer best deals Smaller suppliers have consist- ently provided cheaper energy deals to customers than the big six energy companies have over the past six months, analysis by MoneySuperMarket has shown. The big six have made greater cuts to their best deals – up to £189 – but smaller suppliers' tariffs remain cheaper, Money- SuperMarket said. The cheapest tariff is offered by Extra Energy and would cost the average customer £958 a year. Four of the big six cut their prices in the past six months, with only SSE and British Gas failing to lower the price of their cheapest tariffs. Co-operative Energy lowered the price of its top tariff by the greatest amount over the past six months, reducing it by £174, or 15 per cent, to £1,008. Delays: mass rollout put back to October 2016

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