Utility Week

UTILITY Week 11th December

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Page 25 of 31

Customers This week Public to be quizzed on domestic market CCWater says it is 'critical' to take customers' views into account as water market is opened up The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) will conduct research next year to explore what it would take now for domestic customers to engage with the water market. The government announced in late November that competi- tion could start in the domestic retail market as early as 2020. The consumer group carried out similar research in 2008, which suggested there was "some appetite" for competition among households. It also revealed households had "significant expectations" – particularly about how much they could save by switching – and "concerns about how the market would work". CCWater's chief executive Tony Smith said it was "absolutely crucial" that whatever decision is made on domestic competition is driven by what customers want. "That's why next year we'll be carrying out research with households to get an understanding of what it would take for them to engage with the market." The Treasury on 30 November outlined plans to boost competition in a number of sectors, including water. The announcement came as a surprise to the water industry, which has been focused on opening the market to com- petition for non-domestic customers in 2017 and was not expecting domestic competition to follow so swily. Ofwat will now review the costs and benefits of opening up the household retail market and report to the government next summer. The government will then "work with water companies to begin the transition to retail competition before the end of this Parliament". LV ENERGY Smart meters could be stranded assets Big six energy supplier SSE has warned that the increasing numbers of foundation meters being installed in consumers' homes are a "massive risk" to the industry's ability to future proof the smart meter rollout. SSE's director of metering and smart transformation, Sara-Jane Asquith, said the ongoing delays to the Data and Communication Company (DCC) network mean that SMETS1 technology in foundation meters could be in a quarter of all smart meters. "It limits customers on change of supply and we don't believe that's acceptable." SSE has installed 130,000 meters so far at a rate of 700 a day, all of which are SMETS1 meters, which are still at risk of becoming stranded assets. SMETS2 meters, which will have full interoperability with the DCC network, will not be installed until aer the DCC goes live in August next year. ENERGY First introduces its second NSPCC tariff Independent supplier First Util- ity has launched a second tariff supporting the NSPCC in a bid to raise £250,000 for the charity during its ongoing two-year partnership. The new fixed price dual fuel NSPCC First tariff is the cheapest on the market at £984 a year. The supplier will donate £1 a month per fuel for each new and renewing customer who switched to the two-year tariff before 10 December. Every customer who switches will raise £48 for the charity over the two-year period of the tariff. First Utility said custom- ers who switch to the new tariff will save an average of £167 a year compared with those on a standard variable tariff offered by the big six. ELECTRICITY Agency to handle blackout campaign The Energy Networks Asso- ciation (ENA) has taken a step closer to launching a three-digit contact number for use during power cuts by appointing crea- tive agency Kindred to lead the brand campaign. Kindred will create the new brand, advertising and public relations for the number, which is due to launch in spring 2016. The new 105 number will let the public contact their local network operator if they have a power cut or if they encounter a safety issue with power lines or substations. The new number is part of a ra of improvements to customer service for electricity network operators. Smith: there is some appetite for competition I am the customer Lewis Shand Smith "Billing issues irritated customers the most" Last month, Ombudsman Ser- vices: Energy published for the second time this year data on the complaints it received – and resolved – for the ten biggest energy companies in the UK. The figures include customer gripes from July to September 2015 and help consumers make better-informed decisions about their energy provision in the UK. Being able to easily access data about their own energy supplier, as well as its competitors, gives the power to consumers' when customers who are coming to us with their energy problems shows that people are unwilling to put up with poor customer service or quality. We do, however, know that we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg. That's why we remain com- mitted to providing free, quick and painless dispute resolution to consumers to ensure all par- ties find a hassle-free and satis- factory outcome to a problem. Lewis Shand Smith, chief ombudsman it comes to choosing the best provider for them. Over the past quarter, con- sumers made 13,212 complaints, with 12,358 resolved over the same period. For 2015, we've received a staggering 50,000 enquiries to date. As we oen see from our com- plaints figures, billing issues, such as disputed charges, inac- curate invoices and missing bills, irritated Britons most, represent- ing nearly nine out of every 10 complaints. The second biggest concern was transfers (9 per cent), which includes problems switching from one provider to another, or between tariffs. The number of energy 26 | 11TH - 17TH DECEMBER 2015 | UTILITY WEEK

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