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UTILITY Week 31st March 2017

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20 | 31ST MARCH - 6TH APRIL 2017 | UTILITY WEEK Customers I am the customer Tony Smith "We need more assurances about open water market" Most eyes in the water sector have been fixed on the opening of the non-household retail water market in England on 1 April. But if you blinked you might have missed the news that we will have to wait until at least the end of this parliament before the government decides whether to give households the same choice. We welcome this delay, which suggests ministers – much like CCWater – need more assurances. Many water customers like the idea of choice and we believe an We can now learn valuable lessons from the non-household water market that can help shape a more watertight case for pursuing, or abandoning, house- hold competition. It will also be useful to see if initiatives arising from the CMA's review of energy improve customer engagement. By monitoring the experience of small businesses from 1 April, we can understand if choice can deliver what households want. Tony Smith, chief executive, Consumer Council for Water active marketplace could deliver tangible benefits. But there remains a gulf between what cus- tomers expect to save and what the retail water market is likely to deliver. A large majority of cus- tomers tell us an annual saving of £10 from retailers would not be enough; most expect to pocket at least four times that amount. Even bundling water with other utilities, which could poten- tially shi savings closer to cus- tomers' expectations, would fall short of the £200+ that has previ- ously failed to tempt many energy customers. Bundling would also add to the Pandora's box of policy issues, such as disconnection, that need to be addressed. This week Water retailers scoop government contracts Nine water retailers win places in the UK's biggest public sector water framework agreement Nine water retailers are set to share in a £960 million govern- ment bonanza, as the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) awards places in the water services framework for the public sector. The companies that will be able to provide water supply and sewerage services to the public estate are Affinity Water, Anglian Water, Business Stream, Castle Water, Pennon Water, Three Sixty, Water Plus, and ADSM. Successful providers to gain a place in the 'one stop shop' – to provide both water and sewerage and water ancillary services – are Affinity Water, Anglian Water, Business Stream, Castle Water, Pennon Water, Northum- brian Water, Three Sixty, Water Plus, and ADSM. Contracts to provide just water ancillary services – including the management, conservation, reduction and data management of water consumption – will be awarded imminently. The multi-supplier framework will be live and avail- able to public sector organisations for the opening of the market in April. It will run for three years with the option to extend by a further 12 months. The CCS issued tender documents for licensees in Feb- ruary, when it valued the public sector water retail market at £960 million. The procurement agency is collaborating with a number of bodies, including The Energy Consor- tium and the Ministry of Defence, to bring to market the largest public sector water framework agreement in the UK. It is hoped the agreement will help the public sector to save more than £20 million over four years. LV ENERGY Businesses owed millions after errors Human error and complex data flows have resulted in UK busi- nesses being charged hundreds of millions of pounds more than they should have been for energy, new research has shown. Analysis carried out by utili- ties consultancy Inenco uncov- ered the errors, which it blames on a range of different players in the energy supply chain, from suppliers to meter operators and distribution network operators. One in five business energy bills might be wrong, according to Inenco, whose chief com- mercial officer David Cockshott warned that the "size and scale of this issue means this is not just small change being discussed". He urged companies to look again at their energy bills and claim back any money owing to them. Businesses have the right to refunds on incorrect bills dating back up to six years. Businesses in the retail and leisure sectors are the most likely to have been affected by billing errors, according to Inenco's analysis, which exam- ined "thousands" of invoices. ENERGY Price caps could lead to steep bill hikes The government has been warned that caps on energy prices could prompt steep hikes in bills in the run-up to their introduction. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said price controls, which are being mulled over by ministers to help customers on poor value for money standard variable tariffs, would reduce competition among energy firms and lead to spikes in bills. The free market think- tank issued the warning as it published a new report urging the government to harness the opportunity provided by Brexit to simplify energy policy and reduce household fuel bills. ENERGY Ecotricity tops service league table Green energy supplier Ecotricity has come first in a Citizens Advice customer service ratings system. The online system ranks the 18 biggest energy suppliers with a score of between one and five, based on a combination of different factors, including complaints, bill clarity and ease of switching. Ecotricity has topped the rat- ing system with a score of 4.25, while Extra Energy has come bottom of the list with 2.5. The ratings will also appear as part of Citizens Advice's online price comparison tool, to help people work out the best deal for them. Public sector: nine retailers in the framework

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