Utility Week

UTILITY Week 15th May 2015

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24 | 15TH - 21ST MAY 2015 | UTILITY WEEK Customers This week CCWater chair targets national social tariff Publicly funded scheme would help to address shortfall in funding faced by company initiatives The new chairman of the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) is pushing for a national social tariff to be created. Speaking to Utility Week, Alan Lovell, who only took up his role with the water watchdog last month, said a centrally funded social tariff supporting vulnera- ble consumers is where "we and the consumers would ideally like [the sector] to go". Lovell added that having one publicly funded scheme would help to address the shortfall in funding currently faced by the schemes run by the water companies. CCWater research estimates that £400 million would "solve the affordability problem" but the water compa- nies are only able to raise £40 million via levies on their bills for their schemes. "It's a tough problem," he said, noting that the water companies can only offer this much because they have to ensure the levies they place onto water bills are acceptable with customers. The chairman also stated having one centrally organ- ised scheme would remove the differences between the initiatives run by the various water companies, removing the situation where a single customer may be eligible for support from their water supplier, but not from their wastewater company. "Where we are at the moment is the third tier of desir- ability, which is where most of the companies are putting something in place." The second tier would be company run schemes with "greater consistency" between them, with a national scheme being the ideal solution. MB ENERGY Spark granted extra prepayment tariff Ofgem has granted independent supplier Spark Energy a deroga- tion from the Retail Market Review's four-tariff rule to allow it to offer a prepayment tariff for tenants of affordable social housing. Spark Energy said in its sub- mission to Ofgem that it needs an additional tariff as the high operational costs of prepayment meters would make it uneco- nomic at the price of its standard tariff. Its Affordable Housing Prepayment Tariff is specifi- cally designed for low energy users such as low-consuming prepayment customers living in affordable social housing. Spark Energy said the tariff would be the UK's cheapest prepayment tariff, offering dual electricity and gas supply for as little as £2 a day. WATER Web portal set up to tackle tenant debt A website has been launched to help landlords record details of who is responsible for paying a property's water bill, in an attempt to reduce bad debt. The Landlord TAP website provides a form for landlords to fill in basic details of their ten- ants, and this is then automati- cally passed on to the relevant water and wastewater companies. One of the biggest sources of bad debt in the water industry comes from the rental sector, where tenants leave a property before settling their bill. This adds an average of £15 to every- one's annual water bill. Unlike other sectors, water companies have no contracts with their consumers because they supply water on a statutory basis and consumers are not obliged to inform their water company when they move in or out of a property. ENERGY Switching to raise £250k for charity Independent supplier First Util- ity has formed a first of its kind partnership which aims to raise £250,000 for children's charity the NSPCC. It has pledged to donate £2 a month, for a period of two years, to the charity for every new customer that switches their gas and electricity supply to it during the month of May. First Utility will donate a pound each for every electric- ity and gas supply signed up direct via the First Utility website regardless of tariff, it said. Customers who switch both supplies to First Utility will raise £48 each over the course of the partnership – enough funding for 12 children to speak to a Childline counsellor. Lovell: tariff affordability is a 'tough problem' I am the customer Nicola Eaton Sawford "Impress me and I'll be a billboard for your brand" I am the customer, and my needs are simple. Understand what I need and want and how you measure up to my expectations. If there is a gap, close it – fast. I'm human, I want a human touch. But that doesn't mean I don't like technology, I do – when it has been sensitively designed and meets my needs. Connect with me personally; impress me and I will be a liv- ing, breathing billboard for your brand, possibly the most effec- tive salesperson on your team. impressing me. I am becoming less tolerant of poor service. I'm more inclined to take action and have tools at my disposal that can amplify my voice many times, in seconds. I am acutely aware of my increased power and influence and I'm not afraid to use it. I am your customer and that I will stay, but only if I am looked aer in the best possible way. Nicola Eaton Sawford, managing director, Customer Whisperers If you let me down, li me up again. In this moment I see your true character. I don't invest my time in giving you feedback lightly; my time is precious. Value my time and my feedback, show me you're listening and learning. Repeatedly let me down and know this; you don't get unlim- ited chances. If I can, I'll go and buy from someone else. If I can't leave you, I'll stay and be a thorn in your side. I'll be slow to pay and unco-operative. The walking, talking billboard will change its tune. I'm not fickle – you brought this on yourself. It's true, I am getting more demanding, other companies are

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