Utility Week

UTILITY Week 8th January 2016

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Customers This week CCWater challenges firms to cut leakage Watchdog's report shows improved customer service and fewer complaints, but leaks persist More than half of the UK's water companies reported rising leakage this year, the Consumer Council for Water has revealed. And it called on the industry to do more to tackle the problem. A report published by CCWa- ter, Delving into Water, revealed water companies are improving customer services, consumer satisfaction and trust in the industry are increasing, and complaints are down. But CCWater said it was disappointed that fewer than half of the water companies reduced leakage during the year when customers are being urged to do more to save water. The industry has committed itself to cut leakage over the next five years and the watchdog said it will be challenging companies to go beyond their targets. The report also reveals progress in reducing sewer flooding and interruptions to customers' water supplies has also been slower than CCWater had expected. Tony Smith, chief executive of CCWater, said: "Over- all it's a positive picture and the water industry deserves credit for delivering services that most customers are very satisfied with. However, leakage is a key concern for customers and we know it has a big impact on their own motivation to save water." Delving into Water examined water companies' performance on a range of issues that matter to custom- ers, including complaint handling, payment assistance schemes, sewer flooding, leakage, metering and supply interruptions, as well as drinking water quality and consumption. EB WATER UU wins supply deal for Tesco in Scotland United Utilities Scotland has won the supply contract for all Tesco stores and distribution centres in Scotland. United Utilities Scotland said the deal with the largest com- mercial customer in Scotland will save the supermarket more than £800,000 a year. Sales director Tony McHardy said: "Water is an important part of Tesco's in-store operations. "By working in partnership with Tesco and drawing on our experience and scale, we can deliver a real cost saving as well as excellent service." Tesco has 281 stores and distribution centres in Scotland. United Utilities said the contract "sends a strong message to the market about the quality of service we can provide". WATER Scottish Water price hikes limited to 1.6% Scottish Water household water charges will rise at a limited rate of 1.6 per cent in the next year. The increase in charges from April 2016 will help pay for a £3.5 billion investment pro- gramme through to 2021, which the company says will improve drinking water quality, modern- ise water treatment works and build a wastewater tunnel in Glasgow to reduce flooding from the river Clyde. Scottish Water charges are within price limits set by the Water Industry Commission for Scotland as part of a six-year agreement. From 2015-18, house- hold charges can increase by 1.6 per cent a year, irrespective of inflation. Overall, in the six-year period, Scottish Water charges must increase by no more than 1.8 per cent below the Consumer Prices Index rate of inflation. ENERGY CMA wants action on prepayment meters The Competition and Markets Authority is urging utilities to act on findings that prepayment customers are "prevented from engaging fully with the market". The CMA found that techni- cal limitations of prepayment meters limit suppliers' ability to innovate and offer suitable tariffs to those customers. These findings have prompted the authority to propose that suppliers should disclose the details of any non-smart prepayment meter (PPM) customers to Ofgem. The details of any customers who choose not to opt out would be entered onto a secure database by Ofgem where their data could be accessed by other suppliers. Suppliers and new entrants may then be encouraged to compete for PPM customers. Fewer than half of water companies cut leakage I am the customer Joanna Elson "Many people are simply unaware that help exists" January is one of the busiest months at National Debtline and Business Debtline, and this year is no exception. Our research shows that nearly one in eight Britons – almost six million – feel they are likely to fall behind on their finances this new year, aer a Christmas period that one in three put on credit. Arrears on utility bills are increasingly a feature of these financial problems – both as a cause and an effect. About 17 per cent of our clients had energy British Bankers Association's Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce, and am hopeful that this activity can be joined up with the good work going on in utilities. At the same time, the Money Advice Trust is training staff at an increasing number of organisations in dealing with vulnerable customers – and we stand ready to work even closer with the utility sector as 2016 begins in earnest. Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive, Money Advice Trust arrears and about 13 per cent are in arrears on their water bills. The good news is that utility companies have worked hard to improve the way they handle debt and affordability problems. Many have specialist teams and strong links with the advice sec- tor. Help with energy and water costs can make an enormous dif- ference to households on a low income. However, we know from experience that many people who qualify are simply unaware that such help exists. The broader issue of cus- tomer vulnerability is a topic of much discussion across utilities and other sectors. I am pleased to be chairing the 26 | 8TH - 14TH JANUARY 2016 2016 | UTILITY WEEK

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