Utility Week

UTILITY Week 26th May 2017

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UTILITY WEEK | 26TH MAY - 1ST JUNE 2015 | 21 Sponsored report Insight O ur party did not end the unjust and inefficient monopolies of the old nationalised energy corporations only to replace them with a system that traps the poorest customers on the worst deals." So said prime minister Theresa May ear- lier this year. Her comments tell of more than the Conservative party's new, hard line on energy prices and its promised price cap. They speak of an energy market that is viewed with suspicion by customers, vilified by politicians and the press, and suffering, still, from broken trust with the public. Energy prices are front and centre of the national agenda once again, with May convinced that promising action will win her votes – just as Labour leader Ed Mili- band was at the last election, in 2015. Cur- rent Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has gone even further, pledging to renationalise the water sector and parts of the energy sector if elected. The politicians are not creating the problem with utilities – they're tapping into an anger that already exists. Energy companies have long been aware that poor customer service and rising prices has le them with more than an image prob- lem. Indeed, the companies themselves called for a Competition and Markets Author- ity (CMA) investigation into the industry as far back as 2013, with then-Eon chief execu- tive Tony Cocker speaking for his peers when he told the Utility Week Congress: "Eon has worked very hard in the past two years to improve our transparency and rebuild trust but at the same time, it is clear we are not fully succeeding. "We have absolutely nothing to hide and we are transparent as we can be, but it would be helpful to have a group of experts to look in from the outside, who don't have a vested interest in the industry." The CMA investigation went ahead, tak- ing two years to come to conclusions that many in the industry take issue with – including its infamous claim that energy cus- tomers are being overcharged by £1.4 billion a year. Yet it also concluded that fundamen- tally, the market was not broken. It stopped short of calling for a universal price cap, lim- iting such intervention to customers on pre- payment meters. Instead, it made a number of recommendations now being enacted by the sector. Today it is apparent that the CMA didn't go far enough. The public is still angry with energy suppliers, and politicians are still prepared to exploit that anger to win votes. And this is an issue not just for energy sup- pliers, as Labour's manifesto has shown. Whatever the outcome of the election, the fundamental issue of broken trust will remain. That's why Utility Week, in asso- ciation with WNS Global Services (WNS), is launching the Customer Trust Council. The council will work with representatives of energy suppliers and other utilities to ask what has gone so badly wrong – and what the industry can do to fix it. The trust deficit Last year's CMA investigation was supposed to re-establish trust in the energy sector but as far as politicians are concerned, the energy sector is still Public Enemy No 1. Produced in association with: Proposed price caps offer consumers a "safety net". Stephen Fitzpatrick, chief execu- tive, Ovo Energy, welcomes political intervention in the energy market – read more on p22 "The future of en- ergy is not about the plug in the wall, but about all of the ad- ditional things that come from it." Jo Causon, chief executive at the Institute of Customer Service on one of the solutions – read more on p24 "Consumers' trust in the sector is also diminishing…" Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services, Which? – read her column on p23 "It's all to do with communication and providing a consist- ently good service" Chris Lloyd, senior vice president, energy and utilities, UK and Europe, WNS, on what suppliers can do to try and regain trust – Q&A on p25 Talking points The Customer Trust Council Utility Week, in association with WNS, is launching the Customer Trust Council to look at practical ways the industry can rebuild trust with the public. There will be monthly updates on the council's activity in Utility Week and on utilityweek.co.uk The first Council meeting takes place in London on 31 May. Attendance is by invitation only, so please email ellen.bennett@fav-house.com if you would like to know more. "

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