Utility Week

UTILITY Week 29th September 2017

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Customers UTILITY WEEK | 29TH SEPTEMBER - 5TH OCTOBER 2017 | 25 This week Three water firms see rise in complaints Sector sees a fall in written complaints but an increase in 'unwanted' contacts from customers Cambridge Water, Thames Water and SES Water face increased scrutiny from the industry's con- sumer watchdog following poor performance on complaints, revealed in the Consumer Coun- cil for Water's annual report. Cambridge Water has seen written complaints soar by nearly 250 per cent – the biggest rise of any water firm – and "unwanted" contacts rise by more than 37 per cent. CCWater has asked the company to report back by the end of October on the steps it has taken to improve its service. Cambridge Water managing director Phil Newland said: "We received 488 complaints last year compared to our usual average of around 190 per year. We under- stand the reasons behind this increase and are working hard to ensure that we quickly restore our performance back to the excellent levels our Cambridge customers have historically enjoyed." Thames Water and SES Water both recorded an increase in written complaints and unwanted contacts. Southern Water remains the worst performer on both unwanted contacts and written complaints, despite see- ing the largest reduction in the latter. CCWater wants fur- ther improvement from Southern Water, Welsh Water and Affinity Water, saying Welsh Water and Affinity Water had "responded positively" to pressure but "have more to do". Across the UK's 21 water companies, unwanted con- tacts, where a customer calls their water company with an issue 'unwanted' from their perspective, rose by more than 40,000 to 2.14 million. But written complaints fell by 11 per cent, down from 106,839 to 95,274. EB ENERGY Ofgem consults on next-day switching Ofgem has launched a consulta- tion on a proposed package of regulatory reforms that would deliver next-day switching for domestic energy customers. The move is part of a wider plan put forward by the regula- tor to create a fairer energy market with higher levels of con- sumer engagement. Ofgem esti- mates that its faster switching proposal could deliver consumer benefits of up to £1,056 million, as well as delivering non- monetised benefits via increased competition and innovation. In its new consultation document, Ofgem said next-day switching is required to replace the "unreliable and slow" service for consumers, in which it currently takes two to three weeks to switch supplier. The proposed package of switching reforms – called RP2a – would replace the separate switching systems for electricity and gas accounts with a central switching service. Responses to the consultation are required by 3 November 2017. ENERGY Regulator: Ovo is 'the least compliant' Ovo Energy has failed to comply with its environmental and social programme obligations on 38 occasions, according to an Ofgem report published on 21 September, making it the least compliant provider. The report looks at suppliers' performance with regard to seven schemes aimed at tackling energy poverty and reducing carbon emissions, which they must fund and promote among their customers. These include the provision of new boilers, roof and wall insulation and the Warm Home Discount for low- income households. Ovo had 38 incidents recorded compared with an average of less than 10 for other new entrants. The big six energy suppliers were among the worst offenders. ENERGY Public backing for new plants with CCS Half the public would back the idea of new coal- and gas-fired power stations if there was a way to capture and store any carbon emissions, a new survey has found. The survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found 50 per cent of people would support new fossil fuel power stations with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, while 22 per cent were against the idea. It also found 35 per cent of people thought the government's first priority should be generating enough electricity to meet all our domestic and industrial needs. Unhappy customers: rise in unwanted contacts I am the customer Tony Smith "Water firms should extend the funding of social tariffs" At the last price review back in 2014, the water industry made a commitment to help one million customers facing financial hard- ship by 2020. Almost three years on and water companies are on course to meet that ambition with around 780,000 people – or 338,764 households – receiving some form of assistance. That's positive news, but does it really go far enough? Not according to our research, which paints a consistent picture of about three million households have if they didn't rely almost entirely on other customers to fund them? Our research shows customers would be willing to contribute more if they could see their water company was also playing its part. Some companies are already making a contribution and we want to see others follow suit by making a commitment in PR19. Aer all, the cost of not acting could end up being far greater. Tony Smith, chief executive, Consumer Council for Water in England and Wales who believe their water bill is unaf- fordable. That means financial support may only be available to about one in five households who need it – a drop in the ocean. With another price review on the horizon, the industry has a golden opportunity to put afford- able bills at the top of the agenda and show it is serious about addressing this challenge. One of the ways water firms could do this is by dipping into their own deep pockets to extend the funding of social tariff schemes, which have helped to reduce the bills of more than 260,000 low- income households. But can you imagine what impact they could

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