Utility Week

Utility Week 5th June 2015

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UTILITY WEEK | 5TH - 11TH JUNE 2015 | 27 Customers This week Rudd demands big six cut energy prices Energy secretary asks large suppliers to reduce prices now that there is no threat of a prize freeze Energy secretary Amber Rudd has demanded the big six energy suppliers cut their energy prices now the threat of a Labour price freeze has been removed. Rudd has written to each of the biggest suppliers asking them to act because electricity and gas prices have not been lowered since the election ruled out the promised freeze under a Labour government. This is despite suppliers previously saying they could not reduce prices while the threat of a price freeze hung over them. Rudd said her department was "working hard to keep energy bills as low as possible" and her focus is to "get the best deal for customers". Former Labour leader Ed Miliband promised to freeze prices for 20 months from 2015 until 2017 if Labour won the general election, saying the move would save con- sumers millions on their energy bills. Npower chief executive Paul Massara said the price freeze presented a level of risk "beyond that we could manage in the wholesale market", which prevented price cuts in the run-up to the general election. However, an Npower spokesperson said the supplier does not have any current plans to reduce its prices despite the threat being nullified. The price freeze was also given as a reason why price reductions of between just 1.3 per cent and 5.1 per cent were passed on by the big six to customers at the start of this year in response to falling wholesale prices and political pressure, despite gas prices falling by 20 per cent to historic lows. LD ENERGY Domestic markets MD leaves Npower Npower's managing director of domestic markets, Roger Hat- tam, le the supplier at the end of May to "pursue new oppor- tunities", following consecutive years in which the firm lagged behind rivals in customer satis- faction league tables. But Npower chief executive Paul Massara said Hattam was leaving "with a legacy to be proud of" and thanked him for his "contribution towards giving Npower the foundation to achieve truly great customer experience". Npower said last month's Citi- zens Advice report showing its customer complaints had been cut by more than a third was evidence of "the real progress that has been made" under Hat- tam's leadership. Citizens Advice acknowledged that Npower has made improvements recently, although said it is still "perform- ing poorly" relative to the other big six suppliers, with almost five times as many complaints. Npower managing director of energy services, Simon Stacey, moved to Hattam's role on 1 June. ENERGY Ofgem calls prepay meters 'a last resort' Ofgem has warned energy sup- pliers that prepayment meters should only be installed under warrant as a "last resort" to prevent disconnection. The regulator said it is looking into the reasons behind the rise in the number of prepay meters being installed for non-payment of debt on a warrant visit. The regulator said suppliers should support customers strug- gling to pay by providing energy advice, signposting to social support and setting outstanding debt at an affordable repayment level. It added it will change the current voluntary practice of allowing prepay meter custom- ers with a debt of up to £500 per fuel to switch, into an obligation. WATER Companies facing a rise in bad debts Water companies are facing rising levels of bad debt because customers are not aware of the support available to them, the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has warned. United Utilities and Anglian Water both recently recorded higher levels of bad debt, and rec- ognised bad debt is predicted to rise from £1,635 million – which adds £15 to each household's bill – in a review in the autumn. CCWater head of policy and research Deryck Hall said the level of bad debt and the pressure faced by the industry is growing due to a lack of customer aware- ness of the support available and more bills going unpaid. Rudd: wants the 'best deal for customers' I am the customer Jo Causon "One in four users used social media to complain" Utilities have delivered the most improved average customer satis- faction ratings over the past year, with a rise of 1.9 (out of 100) since January 2014, according to the latest UK Customer Service Index. To build on this success, it's important they pay heed to their social media channels. In light of customers demanding increased social media interaction because of its convenience, low cost and very public nature, the Institute of Customer Service has launched that are slow to adapt by ensur- ing round-the-clock service via social media and taking respon- sibility for dealing with queries to avoid the reputational damage risked by highly publicised social media failures. Employees that are trained on different social platforms, with good company knowledge and the power to make judgement calls exercising emotional intelligence, are best placed to achieve these results. Jo Causon, chief executive, Institute of Customer Service the Service Goes Social report. It has found one in four social media users in the UK used platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+ to make a complaint over the past three months. It also shows that if traditional methods for voicing dissatisfaction aren't effective, 12 per cent of customers will use social media platforms to escalate their complaint. So social media is not just a necessary component of a credi- ble customer service strategy but one that offers powerful insights that drive better innovation, co-creation and collaboration. Utilities can achieve a com- petitive advantage over sectors

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