Utility Week

UTILITY Week 7th October 2016

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Page 29 of 35

Customers This week Suppliers may share vulnerability data Electralink proposes exchange of information about vulnerable customers when they switch Energy suppliers may be required to share data on the vulnerability of customers at change of supply under new proposals from data transfer service Electralink. The company revealed that it is studying ways in which data could be shared to notify suppli- ers if a customer is on the prior- ity service register when they switch. This should help vulnerable customers get the support they are entitled to from suppliers. Vulnerable customers or those entitled to help or special payment arrangements are put on the priority service register, but this information is not currently shared when the customer switches supplier. Electralink governance service operations manager Stefan Leedham told Utility Week: "There is a piece of work that we are looking at doing, working across the codes, on how we can share vulnerability information on change of supply. "Possibly, using the Data Transfer Service to share the information, at change of supply, supplier A would tell supplier B about what the customer is entitled to." Leedham said that previous work with the Department for Work and Pensions studied how information about fuel poor credit could be shared with suppliers, but the plans were scrapped in the face of "barriers from the data protection side, despite suppliers being keen to progress". He added that the information could also be used to improve other aspects of vulnerability including sup- porting the Debt Assignment Protocol. SJ ENERGY CMA to probe price comparison tools The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a probe into "digital comparison tools" such as price comparison websites and smartphone apps. The study will focus on how to maximise the potential benefits to consumers and break down barriers to their effective operation. It will examine the way they earn money and how this might affect the services they offer, as well as whether arrangements with suppliers might restrict competition. The study will address four key themes: what consumers expect from the tools, their impact on competition between suppliers, how effectively they compete with each other and the efficacy of existing regulations. WATER Ecotricity rekindles water market plans Ecotricity has rekindled its interest in the UK water market, saying it would look to bring "an eco-approach to water". Chief executive Dale Vince told Utility Week: "We do have some ideas around how we could make that work. We think we could bring a sort of eco- approach to the water market." Although Vince declined to comment specifically on the plans, he said they would include "great customer ser- vice", as well as "some kind of eco outcome". "We think there's a way we can apply this to water which would be very interesting," he said. From 1 April 2017 about 1.2 million businesses and public bodies in England will be able to choose their water supplier, an option only currently available to the largest users. It will link to the existing market in Scotland, which was created in 2008 as the world's first non-domestic water market. ENERGY Comparison tool for heat networks Heat Trust has launched a calculator that lets heat network customers compare the cost of their heating with that of a typi- cal gas boiler. The trust has launched the tool to improve transparency in the sector on the price break- down of heat network bills. All heat suppliers that have registered heat networks with Heat Trust will be required to inform their customers that the Heat Cost Calculator is available. Bindi Patel, head of the scheme, said the increased transparency will be an oppor- tunity for suppliers to "step up" and ensure fair pricing across the industry. Suppliers should know if customers are vulnerable I am the customer Peter Smith "We need collaborative action for healthier homes" Earlier this year, the BBC's Pano- rama programme highlighted the fact that thousands of people in the UK are still getting ill and dying needlessly because their homes are cold. In response, National Energy Action (NEA) has assessed how far health and wellbeing boards (HWBs) in England include rel- evant public health indicators in their joint needs assessments and strategies. NEA has also reviewed the extent to which relevant guid- ance by the National Institute for HWBs in commissioning. This also requires new national leadership. The Depart- ment of Health and Public Health England must establish a system of national oversight and develop frameworks that consist- ently replicate Nice's new related quality standards. In short, we urgently need to see consistent collaborative action to achieve warmer, healthier homes. Peter Smith, director of policy and research, National Energy Action Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is applied locally. The results of our report show fuel poverty is increasingly mentioned as a public health priority, but they also show that only a few HWBs and local areas are developing or updating appropriate strategies or apply- ing the Nice guidance. Leadership is required to tackle this crisis. HWBs clearly need to be supported, but equally we must all challenge local areas that have yet to publicly state their own concrete plans to commission health and housing services. This will require channelling adequate funding and a greater role for 30 | 7TH - 13TH OCTOBER 2016 | UTILITY WEEK

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