Utility Week

UTILITY Week - 12th February 2016

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Customers This week Southern Water bills to fall by 2 per cent Average bills will fall by £7 in 2016/17, the largest reduction seen by a water company this year Southern Water has announced that average bills will fall by £7 in 2016/17, the largest reduction seen by a water company this year. Southern confirmed that, over the coming year, the aver- age bill is expected to be around £1.12 per day, or £411 a year – a fall of about 2 per cent on the estimated average bill for 2015/16. The company said it expects a total reduction in average bills of 8 per cent between 2015 and 2020 (before adjustments are made each year for inflation). Other companies expecting lower bills are Bristol Water, which said annual household bills will fall by 1.2 per cent to £175 from 1 April this year, and Cambridge Water and South Staffordshire Water, which each saw a reduction in average bills of £2, to £127 and £142 respectively. Meanwhile, three water and sewerage companies – Severn Trent Water, South West Water and Wessex Water – said average water bills for the coming year will be lower, while sewerage bills would increase. All remaining water companies will up their bills in 2016/17 except Welsh Water and South East Water, for which bills remain the same. Affinity Water said bills in the east of its region will remain unchanged, with an average annual household bill of £174. In response to the data, Ofwat chief executive Cath- ryn Ross said: "We are here seeing the fruits of our tough 2014 price review, which will mean bills are kept below inflation up to 2020." LV ENERGY Apps to be included in smart meter trials Suppliers will be allowed to trial alternatives to the in-home display unit (IHD), such as smart phone apps, as part of the smart meter rollout, the government announced last week. The move, in response to con- sultation, is designed to gather evidence on whether IHDs are the most effective way of engag- ing customers with their smart meters. Critics say IHDs are becoming redundant as new and alternative technologies emerge. The government will publish guidance on the IHD-alternative trials in mid-March, with the licence changes necessary to facilitate them due to come into force on 1 July. ENERGY Eon and Age UK deny Sun allegations Age UK has denied allegations that it encouraged pensioners to take out expensive tariffs from energy supplier Eon, made by The Sun newspaper last week. It "strongly rejects" the alle- gations that pensioners paid up to £245 a year more than Eon's cheapest tariff on its recom- mended deals in 2015, while it pocketed up to £6 million in fees. Ofgem told Utility Week it is looking into the allegations but has not yet launched a formal investigation: "We will look carefully at these claims," a spokesman said. Age UK said: "We strongly reject the allegations and inter- pretation of figures. The Age UK Fixed 2 Year tariff offers a good deal and was the market leading two-year tariff when launched in January." Eon said its customers could switch tariffs at any time without being charged and added: "Our current Age UK tariff was the cheapest product of its type in Britain when it was launched." ENERGY Decc extends meter installation deadline The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) is to go ahead with a proposed exten- sion to the time period suppliers are allowed to install traditional advanced meters in small busi- ness properties during the smart meter rollout. Five of the six big energy suppliers responded to a consultation on the matter that closed last month. The point at which advanced meters can be installed, without a pre-agreed contract, has been extended from 6 April 2016 to 28 April 2017 for large suppliers and 17 August 2017 for small suppliers to avoid a "potential slowdown" in instal- lations while suppliers wait for SMETS2 models of smart meters to become readily available. Southern: bills expected to be about £411 a year I am the customer Jo Causon "The utility sector is the most improved of 13 analysed" January marked the release of the UK Customer Satisfaction Index from The Institute of Cus- tomer Service. In examining the state of customer service in the utilities sector – and others – it certainly offers encouragement that organisations are moving in the right direction, as custom- ers are more satisfied than they have been since 2014. Some of the most positive news to emerge was that the util- ity sector is the most improved of 13 analysed, gaining 1.9 points It is therefore important that utilities providers invest in emo- tional intelligence and training for customer-facing employees, especially when it comes to deal- ing with challenging situations. If this initiative is central to the boardroom agenda, businesses in the sector stand a much better chance of improving the service their customers receive and the loyalty, trust and recommenda- tion they are shown in return. Jo Causon, chief executive, The Institute of Customer Service on last year's results. There was also the strong performance of newcomer Utility Warehouse, which came second behind Amazon in the overall standings. However there are no reasons for complacency. The sector still, for example, needs to address issues surrounding the skills and attitude of its staff. Across the UK economy, customers revealed that staff attitude and behaviour is much more important than five years ago, with competence of staff being the most important factor in terms of customer sat- isfaction in 2015. Friendliness of staff and ease of doing business are also rising up the customer priorities list. 26 | 12TH - 18TH FEBRUARY 2016 | UTILITY WEEK

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