Utility Week

UTILITY Week 4th September 2015

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UTILITY WEEK | 4TH - 10TH SEPTEMBER 2015 | 25 Customers This week Water firms get debt collection freedoms Ofwat removes requirement for only Financial Conduct Authority regulated companies to be used Water companies have been granted greater freedom to employ debt collection agencies aer Ofwat removed the require- ment for only Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulated firms to be used, in an update to its debt guidance. The existing guidelines prevent specialist water debt col- lectors, which do not fall under the FCA's remit because they are not involved in the collection of financial services debt, from being used. An Ofwat spokesperson said: "We do not believe there is a benefit in including this requirement, as the FCA does not have any jurisdiction to consider malprac- tice associated with water debt collection." Ofwat added that while non-FCA-licensed debt collec- tion agencies can now be used, it is advising water com- panies to use reputable agencies that follow FCA best practice. It said the new guidance would "encourage companies to contractually oblige their recovery agents to follow FCA guidelines when acting on their behalf " in a move to protect customers. Credit Services Association president Leigh Berkley said: "We welcome this common-sense approach by Ofwat, recognising the need for FCA standards of cus- tomer treatment, while understanding the role which can be played by agencies who cannot be FCA regulated." Operations director from the specialist water debt collection agency Orbit, Tom Somerville, welcomed the move and said it would retain the services of companies that helped customers resolve their debt issues. MB ENERGY SSE sets four-week complaints goal Big six supplier SSE has pledged to resolve customer complaints in just four weeks or inform customers of their right to seek an independent review through the ombudsman. The supplier had already cut the eight weeks legally allowed for a complaint to be resolved to six in March, but has decided to take this a "step further". SSE said since introducing a six-week time period for resolu- tion it has retained its posi- tion at the top of the customer satisfaction league table, despite no other supplier matching its commitment. The announcement came as part of a wider package of measures published by SSE in its annual 'Treating Customers Fairly Statement'. Other commitments include introducing new technology to SSE's customer service lines to tackle call waiting times, additional training for customer service staff to support vulner- able and elderly customers, and scrapping charges for the removal of a prepayment meter. ELECTRICITY NI Water signs £58m deal with GO Power Northern Ireland Water has signed a £58 million deal to have its electricity for the next two years supplied by GO Power. Under the contract, Cooks- town-based GO Power will meet 30 per cent of NI Water's metered electricity needs with power gen- erated from renewable sources. NI Water director of finance and regulation, Ronan Larkin, said the deal represents "excellent value for money" and will bring it closer to the NI Assembly's target of 40 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. WATER Thames targets Aberdeen businesses Thames Water is targeting busi- nesses in Aberdeen as the down- turn in the oil and gas sector has led to an increase in enquiries to the water company. Alan Munro, sales manager at the company's retail arm, Thames Water Commercial Services (TWCS), said that as revenue and returns for busi- nesses in Aberdeen have fallen as a result of the crash in the oil price, which is currently below $46 a barrel and down from more than $100 a barrel a year ago, water offers them an area to make "easy savings". Munro added that TWCS was able to offer new water custom- ers savings of around 10-15 per cent on their annual water spend, with some clients saving as much as 20 per cent. Specialist water debt collectors can now be used I am the customer Judith Donovan "People are more likely to respond to a bill by letter" In recent years, many consumers have made the choice to manage their energy bills online. This has been welcomed by providers, who have incentivised customers with preferential 'digital dis- counts'. For the computer liter- ate, it may seem an obvious and convenient solution, but very little has been done to measure the impact of this change on actual consumer behaviour. The Keep Me Posted cam- paign worked with think-tank London Economics to measure have access to broadband and the 10 million adults without basic digital skills, not to men- tion millions of disabled and vul- nerable people. But our research shows that even those who are digitally competent could benefit from paper bills. If customers are more aware of the health of their account and make more timely payments when using post, then that challenges the mindset that 'going digital' is inevitable. Judith Donovan CBE, chair, Keep Me Posted campaign how receiving a paper bill impacted consumer response. Our 'Managing Money Online' report found that people were much more likely to respond to a bill if prompted by a letter through the post rather than via email (80 per cent vs 54 per cent). Similarly, consumers were much more likely to be able to correctly assess the overall health of their account if they were con- tacted on paper rather than via email (75 per cent vs 48 per cent). Our campaign is fighting to protect the consumer right to choose how you are communi- cated with by providers. Paper bills are important to the 10 mil- lion UK customers who do not

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