Utility Week

UTILITY Week 9th October 2015

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Customers UTILITY WEEK | 9TH - 15TH OCTOBER 2015 | 21 This week Energy ombudsman to get 'real teeth' Energy secretary to strengthen ombudsman's powers to tackle systemic industry failings The energy ombudsman will be given stronger powers to crack down on companies that are routinely failing their customers, energy secretary Amber Rudd has announced. In her speech to the Conserv- ative party conference this week, Rudd said the ombudsman would be given "real teeth" to investigate "systemic issues in the industry" rather than just isolated instances. She added: "Where companies have developed a pattern of bad behaviour, they will have no hiding place." In September, a strategic review of the Ombudsman Services Energy (OSE) commissioned by Ofgem said the ombudsman could do more to solve industry-wide issues rather than just on a case-by-case basis. It identified a role for OSE in using complaint data to reduce the root cause of complaints, saying OSE had intervened on occa- sion where it had identified patterns of behaviour that are of concern, but "has not done so systematically". Rudd said the Department of Energy and Climate Change will work with Ofgem and Citizens Advice to define OSE's future role. "We are on the side of consum- ers; we are doing this so consumers receive better treat- ment and we can build more trust in the industry." Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said the 100,000 energy issues the organisation helps customers to deal with every year shows that firms are not learning lessons. "Too oen complaints are dealt with in isola- tion, which means systematic failures across the energy industry are not properly addressed," she said. LD WATER AWB is 'most competitive bidder' Anglian Water Business (AWB) looks set to provide water and wastewater services to more than 100 public sector organisa- tions in Scotland. The Scottish government has named the company as 'the most competi- tive bidder" for the long-awaited £80 million a year deal. The contract to manage water bills for Scotland's schools, hos- pitals and other public buildings will see millions poured back into public services. The Scottish government said it expects to see savings of up to £40 million over the next four years. Cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities, Keith Brown, said: "This contract will save public bodies up to £10 million annually for the initial three-year period of the contract, with the option to extend for a further 12 months." AWB will manage the con- tract from its Edinburgh office, with Scottish Water continuing to provide water for the 96.5 per cent of Scotland's population it currently supplies. ENERGY Call to cut winter fuel allowance now The Taxpayers' Alliance has called on the government to cut the winter fuel allowance for pensioners "as soon as possible" because those affected might not be around to vote in the next election. The BBC has reported that at the group's event at the Conservative party conference in Manchester this week, the alliance's research director, Alex Wild, said the cuts to the winter fuel allowance, free bus passes, the Christmas bonus and other pensioner benefits should be made as soon as possible aer an election because "some of the people… won't be around to vote against you in the next election". The Taxpayers' Alliance campaigns for lower taxes and highlights examples of govern- ment waste. ENERGY First Utility, Shell to team up in Germany Independent supplier First Utility is to partner with energy giant Shell to launch into the German electricity and gas domestic supply market – its first move into a foreign market. First Utility will operate in the German market from this month under the Shell Energy Europe brand, through its German subsidiary First Utility GmbH. First Utility chief executive Ian McCaig said the supplier will bring its business model of low transparent prices to the "com- plicated" German market. Rudd: 'Companies will have no hiding place' I am the customer Deryck Hall "Water customers should be protected from poor service" It was interesting to see con- sumer protection in the media spotlight last week with the Con- sumer Rights Act 2015 extending important new rights to consum- ers over purchased goods. Safeguarding water con- sumers will also be high on our agenda as Ofwat begins to consult on the protections that will exist in the new retail water market in England. Market open- ing may be 18 months away, but the decisions taken over the next few months will determine particularly important for SMEs and microbusinesses, which are unlikely to have the time or resources to fight their corner. We'll also be working to ensure customers have access to clear information so they can make informed choices about switching. This is a responsibil- ity all of us in the industry must share if customers are to enjoy the benefits of retail competition. Deryck Hall, head of policy and research, Consumer Council for Water whether the 1.2 million non- domestic customers who are able to switch supplier are pro- tected from the potential pitfalls of increased competition. Although challenging, it pro- vides the water industry with an opportunity to show it has learnt lessons from the difficulties that have dealt a blow to consumer confidence in other markets, such as energy. That's why we want to see a commitment to deliver a strong code of practice that protects consumers. Water customers should also be protected from poor service or contract terms if their current supplier chooses to leave the market. This kind of protection is

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