Utility Week

UTILITY Week 7th July 2017

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Page 26 of 31

Customers UTILITY WEEK | 7TH - 13TH JULY 2017 | 27 Water competition "may not be the best thing for the sustaina- bility of water", especially in the South East, according to Affinity for Business managing director Helen Gillett. "Competition, in all its glory, isn't necessarily the best answer for the long-term sustainability of the region," she said. "That's something I know we [Affinity for Business] take seriously, I'm not WATER Gillett: competition could have a negative effect on water resources so sure other retailers necessarily do, particularly if they don't have a water background." Gillett told Utility Week in an interview that water is already "incredibly cheap", and there are already customers who don't think they should have to pay for it at all "because it comes from the sky". She warned that multi-utility bundling, brought about by increased retail competition, could have a negative effect on water resources. "It could be great commercially for custom- ers, but if it makes water the cheapest thing on the list and almost like it's free, that's not good in the southeast of the UK." Following the driest winter experienced in the UK in 20 years, rumours that hosepipe bans may be enforced over This week Yorkshire Water to sell business retail arm 100 jobs in Bradford and Barnsley are at risk, but customers will still get 'the very best service' Yorkshire Water has confirmed it will sell off its business retail arm, putting at risk around 100 jobs at its Bradford and Barnsley sites. According to reports in the local media, a spokesman for the company said: "Yorkshire Water Business Services and Three Sixty can confirm they have notified staff of the Kelda Group's intention to exit the non-household retail market and sell its non-household retail businesses. "These are early days but we felt it was right to keep our colleagues informed throughout." The statement said "business as usual" will continue while details of the market exit are finalised. It also reassured non-household retail customers that they will continue to receive "the very best service". As Utility Week went to press, Yorkshire Water had not responded to the magazine's request for comment. In February, Yorkshire abandoned plans to transfer existing non-domestic customers to its retail spin-out, Three Sixty. It said its existing business customers would instead continue to be served by Yorkshire Water Business Services. The company first indicated that it was looking to pull back from its plans to transfer customers to Three Sixty in January, in a notification to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This sparked rumours that it could be looking to sell off its business customer book. At the time, Northumbrian Water was tipped as a possible buyer for the non-domestic customer base. However, both companies declined to comment on the possibility that they were poised to strike a deal. LV ENERGY British Gas to pay £9.5m to customers Big six supplier British Gas has agreed to pay £9.5 million to compensate customers for substandard treatment. The settlement follows an extensive investigation by Ofgem of British Gas licence breaches with regards to customer service and billing. The breaches all took place between March 2014 and December 2015. The £9.5 million redress pack- age will mostly go to microbusi- ness customers aer British Gas failed to comply with its obligation to treat microbusiness customers fairly, and failed to display contract end dates on microbusiness bills. Some of the money will be donated to Money Advice Trust. Revealing the settlement, Ofgem explained that it would also issue a £1 penalty to British Gas, saying: "The authority considers that these consumer redress payments will be of greater benefit to business energy consumers than if a sig- nificant financial penalty were to be imposed." ELECTRICITY Blackout avoidance price 'needs debate' A public debate is needed over how much consumers and taxpayers are willing to spend to avoid blackouts, an ex-Tory MP has argued. There must be greater transparency over the cost of ensuring security of supply as the power system undergoes transformation, Laura Sandys told delegates at the Utility Week Energy Summit in London. "I think there does have to be a much bigger debate about the cost of security of supply and what we mean by that," said Sandys, a former member of the energy and climate change com- mittee and now chief executive of consultancy Challenging Ideas. Panel chair and BBC environ- ment analyst Roger Harrabin questioned how a debate could begin given the "absolute, set in concrete nature of the mantra – the lights must never go out". Sandys replied that the main barrier to discussion is a lack of transparency. ENERGY BBC exposes meter safety concerns The BBC's Watchdog featured smart meter safety concerns in the first episode of a new series. The show, which champions consumer interests, identified three cases in which consumers' homes had been le unsafe due to "negligent" installation or faulty meters being fitted. In one instance, a gas leak occurred because a washer had been le off the meter. In another case, incorrectly reconnected wires caused a fuse board to burn out. Safety experts interviewed for the programme described the errors as "unforgivable". See analysis, p22 'Business as usual' while market exit is finalised this summer have arisen in the national media. However, water companies in the south of Eng- land – the area worst affected by drought – have insisted there are "no water supply issues". Gillett said that although the UK may have been granted a temporary "reprieve" with the wet weather it has had recently, this "doesn't do anything for the long term". See interview, p8

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