Ofwat has announced that it is going to report on how each water company serves, supports and protects customers in vulnerable circumstances. The report will show clearly those companies that are leading the field and those that are letting their customers down.
Ofwat has been calling on water companies to step up their efforts to help customers in vulnerable circumstances and to take account of the fact that while some customers may be vulnerable over time, as much as half the population will find themselves at some point in temporary circumstances that may make them vulnerable, such as illness or bereavement. The regulator is making vulnerable customers a key focus of its forthcoming 2019 price review (PR19). As part of the price review process, all water companies will have to devise and deliver plans to identify customers in vulnerable circumstances as well as understand and deliver against their needs.
As part of its overall assessment of companies’ plans in PR19, Ofwat will report publicly on each water company’s plans to help customers in vulnerable circumstances. Companies will have to report publicly on the delivery of those plans.
In developing their plans, Ofwat is urging water companies to make greater use of the customer data they already hold to get a better understanding of the factors which drive customers towards vulnerable circumstances. Ofwat also wants to see companies do more to make support accessible and seamless for customers and to provide support earlier before problems escalate. Water companies should also be working together and looking more closely at other sectors for examples of best practice.
Ofwat Chief Executive Cathryn Ross said “Any of us could find ourselves in vulnerable circumstances at some point in our lives – often as a result of factors beyond our control. Companies have been doing more to identify and support vulnerable customers in recent years. But they need to do more, especially to work together and to learn from best practice in other sectors. This is too important an issue for companies to be allowed to leave it in the ‘too-difficult’ pile.”
“In our 2019 price review, we are expect each water company to demonstrate how it will go the extra mile to deliver high quality customer service and affordability; helping customers in vulnerable circumstances is very much key to this. We will be publishing our assessment of how companies are responding to this challenge and they will need to report publicly on delivery.”