People who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances, such as those with a long-term illness or a disability, could stand to benefit from greater sharing of non-financial data between their energy and water providers.
A report produced by Ofwat and Ofgem through the UK Regulators Network (UKRN), reveals that while there are already some examples of cross-sectoral collaboration between water and energy companies to help vulnerable customers, there is scope for much more.
Given the similar types of support offered, Ofwat and Ofgem want their respective sectors to pool their efforts to ensure that vulnerable customers are better able to access the extra help which is available. It has been found that where a customer needs additional help from their energy company, they will likely need the same from their water company and vice versa. By identifying those customers which are vulnerable, companies could, for instance, offer priority support in emergencies, provide bills and other literature in accessible formats or move a customer’s meter where it is difficult to reach.
A joint water and energy working group established by the Energy Networks Association and Water UK will report quarterly on progress made on non-financial data sharing. In spring 2018, the regulators will ask water and energy companies to report on their cross-sectoral collaboration to help vulnerable customers. Later in the year will see the publication of a follow up report, outlining what further action – if any – may be required. Two utility companies (United Utilities and Electricity North-West) will also be launching a pilot vulnerability data-sharing programme in their region using live customer data in January 2018. Ofwat and Ofgem support this work and look forward to seeing progress made as quickly as possible.
Cathryn Ross, Chief Executive of Ofwat said:
“Water companies have been doing more in recent years to identify and support the most vulnerable in our society and we are also starting to see some really positive examples of cross-sectoral collaboration with energy providers. But there is much more that can be done and given the similarities in the support they provide, and the fact that they serve the same customers, it makes sense that water and energy companies should work together where they can. Today’s report highlights some really good and practical examples of how the water and energy sectors can pull together to help those who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances.”
Dermot Nolan, Chief Executive of Ofgem and UKRN Chair said:
“Protecting and empowering consumers in vulnerable situations is a priority for Ofgem. By working together and innovating, energy and water companies can identify and support their customers in vulnerable circumstances more effectively. Through the UK Regulators Network, Ofwat and Ofgem have joined up to encourage this approach. I’m pleased to see industry have responded and look forward to progress in better supporting vulnerable customers across sectors. “
Notes to editor:
- The full report is titled “Making better use of data: identifying customers in vulnerable situations: a report for water and energy companies”. Please find the report here.
- The UK Regulators Network (UKRN) was established by its members in 2014, to provide the structure for regulators to consider common issues and policy projects with relevance across utility, financial and transport sectors. Visit the UKRN’s website for further information: http://www.ukrn.org.uk/
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