Water and energy regulators Ofwat and Ofgem are calling for their respective sectors to pool their efforts to ensure that vulnerable customers are better able to access the extra help which is available.
A new 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.
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, according to the regulators.
Given the similar types of support offered, Ofwat and Ofgem want to see greater collaboration on the basis that where a customer needs additional help from their energy company, they will likely need the same from their water company and vice versa.
The report says that 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.
Regulators to ask water and energy firms to report on cross-sectoral collaboration
In spring 2018, the regulators will also 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.
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 added:
“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.”
Click here to download the report Making better use of data: identifying customers in vulnerable situations: a report for water and energy companies