Utility Week

UTILITY Week 6th March 2015

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24 | 6th - 12th March 2015 | UtILItY WEEK Customers This week Water firms criticise social tariff disjoint Discrepancies between companies' social tariffs lead to inconsistencies for vulnerable customers There are "difficult" divisions and a disjoint between the social tariffs being offered to households by the water-only companies and the water and sewerage companies, according to the companies themselves. Vulnerable customers receiv- ing water and wastewater ser- vices from different companies are not offered consistent social tariffs for both, because the companies operate different tariffs with varying criteria. Speaking at the Consumer Council for Water's Lon- don and South East public meeting last week, Affinity Water's director of customer relations and business ser- vices, Vincent Muldoon, said there needs to be "joined- up thinking" between the companies. He added that of the 16,000 households that have signed up to Affinity Water's social tariff, only 40 have been put onto Thames Water's sewerage social tariff scheme. "What we're finding is different financial thresholds, and a different approach to it," Muldoon said. "We've got a big disjoint. We are trying to get commonality. It's difficult and we're certainly not there yet." Southern Water's director of strategy and regulation, Simon Oates, said the differences between the schemes are a result of them being "designed in isolation". He added that Southern Water is "actively engaged" with the water providers in the region and if one company has a more successful social tariff scheme, he would have "no problems" in adopting their model. MB EnErgY MPs slam regulation of comparison sites Ofgem has come under fire from MPs for taking a "hands-off " approach to the regulation of "misleading" comparison sites. In a report published last week, the Energy and Climate Change committee accused com- mission-led comparison sites of "damaging trust" in the switch- ing process, and demanded that consumers who have been "duped" receive compensation. The report blamed Ofgem's current voluntary code of prac- tice and called on the regulator to establish a licence-based system for sites, or a licence requirement on suppliers to use only accredited sites. ELEctrIcItY Public overestimates cost of wind power The UK public holds "consider- able misconceptions" about the cost of wind power, believing subsidies to be 14 times more than they actually are. According to research com- missioned by RenewableUK, the average customer thinks wind subsidies add £259 to a typical £1,300 annual domestic dual- fuel bill. In fact, these subsidies add as little as £18 a year. RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said the poll brought to light "considerable misconceptions" about the cost of supporting wind power. She said: "Onshore and offshore wind provided nearly 10 per cent of the UK's total electricity supply in 2014… The more that people become aware of facts like this, the more they tend to support wind energy." EnErgY Energy sector denies Green Deal apathy The energy industry has struck back at energy minister Greg Barker's claim that the big six undermined the Green Deal scheme. Responding to criti- cism, trade association Energy UK insisted the government had "made it clear" from the outset that the scheme was to be "led by new entrants joining the market, not by suppliers". Last week, Barker was reported as saying the largest energy companies had "feigned enthusiasm" for the Green Deal, but had "no real interest in energy efficiency". A spokesperson for Energy UK told Utility Week: "Energy suppliers had an obligation to act as a collection agency for Green Deal payments. Suppliers fulfilled their obligation. "The industry understands the importance of improving customers' energy efficiency and continues to work with govern- ment on programmes such as the Energy Company Obligation." Social tariffs require "joined-up thinking" I am the customer Lewis Shand Smith "More people than ever are voting with their feet" What a start to the year it's been for the big six. If they thought 2014 was tough, they might have their work cut out this year. The recent update from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) claimed that between 2012 and 2014, more than 95 per cent of dual-fuel cus- tomers of the big six could have saved up to £234 by switching tariffs or suppliers. This hammer blow comes just weeks aer these same suppli- ers bowed to pressure to pass on in January. Of these, many relate to inaccurate invoicing or the failure to produce a bill at all. While the CMA attributes a general apathy among custom- ers to switch suppliers, our latest complaints figures suggest more people than ever are willing to vote with their feet. Complaints relating to sales and transfers reached their highest level, accounting for 13 per cent of the total in January. Lewis Shand Smith, chief ombudsman reductions in the wholesale price of gas to customers. However, with price cuts ranging from 1.3 to 5.1 per cent (and taking various amounts of time to come into effect), the announcements were not without criticism. As the sole ombudsman to the energy sector, our own complaints figures echoed this dissatisfaction, with the number of complaints about energy suppliers in January reaching a record high of 6,775 – almost double the number made during January 2014 and a 47 per cent increase on December 2014. Bill- ing-related issues continue to be the biggest driver, accounting for 85 per cent of disputes recorded

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