Water companies provide help worth more than £40 million each year to support customers in vulnerable circumstances. They are now looking to build on the successful work carried out by energy companies, who already share information with each other to provide more tailored services to customers.
The scheme will be piloted in January 2018 in parts of North West England covered by United Utilities and Electricity North West. It will include water and sewerage providers in the service as part of the same scheme as energy providers, with the aim of rolling out the scheme nationwide by 2020. The scheme has had significant input and support from Ofwat, Ofgem and the Consumer Council for Water.
Services currently available for water and energy customers who need extra help include providing priority support in the event of an interruption to supply, the creation of secure passwords for home-visits from employees, and arranging large print or braille bills.
Announcing the new initiative, Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said: “Water companies want to go to the next level in supporting people in vulnerable situations. As their customers are also served by energy companies, it makes sense for us all to work together. By registering for this scheme, customers can help companies help them when they most need it.”
ENA Chief Executive David Smith said “Energy companies strive to deliver the best possible service to their customers and network companies currently achieve satisfaction scores of over 85%. We want to build on that performance and ensure customers are able to get the right information and support as quickly and easily as possible when they need it. This is particularly important for some customers who require additional help from utility companies and today’s announcement will make it easier for those customers to register to the PSR and receive additional support.”
Consumer Council for Water Chief Executive Tony Smith said “We believe that greater collaboration between water and other utilities can play a vital role in ensuring more customers in vulnerable circumstances take advantage of the growing support that is available to them from water companies. We welcome this initiative and are participating in the project to help ensure it’s a success. We hope it will boost take-up of priority services and help overcome the regional variations in customer awareness of assistance.”
The new initiative continues recent cooperation between the energy and water sectors. In March 2016 they agreed to work together to signpost customers not just to their own services but also to the support available from any water or energy company participating in the scheme.
Companies use many available sources of information, such as data from credit reference agencies and other partnerships to reach as many people as they can. But they know that many other customers could benefit from the support they offer, which is why this new service is being launched. Appropriate data sharing arrangements will be put in place to keep personal information safe.