Customers

Examining how utilities are tackling the key issues of vulnerability and affordability

Editor's picks

Trustpilot is investigating Symbio Energy over the nature of its responses to customers leaving negative feedback. The review site stressed it takes action when “businesses act in a way that is threatening, or is perceived to be so”.
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Centrica says it is continuing to face tough trading conditions as a result of the pandemic but added that its restructure remains "on track". In a trading update issued ahead of its AGM the company said the factors impacting its 2021 outlook remain “broadly unchanged” since its preliminary results in February in which it announced a £360 million loss.
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Newly released government figures show 12.5 per cent of households in England are estimated to be in fuel poverty in 2021. The projection represents a reduction from the figure in 2019 of 13.4 per cent, which BEIS attributes to the progress in energy efficiency.
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Featured

Although both are white labels of Octopus, M&S and Co-Op Energy manage to outperform their parent company on customer service rankings. Utility Week asked Octopus Energy’s Rebecca Dibb-Simkin why this is, and what approach the company has taken to integrating two household brands into a disruptor model.
Interviews
Debt and collections leaders in utilities remain braced for the wave of debt and affordability woes they know will come with the end of government’s coronavirus support measures. Are they armed with the right products, resources and data to service the new scale and profile of customers in arrears?
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New research commissioned by Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has shown that just one in five Brits believe that we can meet the UK’s net carbon zero target by 2050, but that there is also a strong public appetite for a greener future. As part of our Countdown to COP campaign, chief executive Mark Horsley shares his views on how the gas sector must win hearts and minds as 2050 draws nearer.
Opinion

Latest in Customers

Octopus and Midcounties Co-operative have relaunched their community energy scheme and will soon offer customers the chance to invest in a stake through their bills. Younity, previously called Co-op Community Energy, has partnerships with 100 community generators across the country. Octopus supplies Co-op through a white label agreement, with the latter recently re-branding to Your Co-op Energy. 
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Several large energy suppliers have called on the government to shift policy costs from electricity bills and introduce a carbon tax to deliver its green heating ambitions. Ovo, Eon, EDF and Scottish Power commissioned a report by consultancy Public First which looks into options for incentivising heat decarbonisation, claiming the current framework actively encourages the use of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, Energy Systems Catapult has backed the creation of an economy-wide ‘carbon regulator’.
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Uswitch has claimed that despite the pandemic, the average debt owed to energy suppliers fell by 10 per cent over winter compared to last year. Based on results to its survey, Uswitch believes that in total 4.2 million households owe £529 million after winter. On average each household owes £126, which according to Uswitch.com is £15 less than last year.
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A heavyweight business commission has recommended the introduction of a National Deal on Net Zero Homes to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The Covid Recovery Commission, which is made up of ten of the UK’s top business leaders, has also called for the creation of a Green Homes Bond and a commitment by the government to retrofit all social homes by 2030.
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As part of our Countdown to COP series, Utility Week speaks to National Grid’s director of COP26, Duncan Burt. He discusses the need for leadership on both the strategies to get us to net zero and the behavioural changes that will be needed.
Interviews
Centrica says attracting female employees is its biggest challenge as an employer, as it revealed plans to align its workforce with the latest census data by 2030. Part of its plans to create a more inclusive workforce include the introduction of a ‘shadow board’ of diverse employees which will “drive continuous improvement”, as well as mandating unconscious bias training for all staff.
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Ofgem’s latest annual survey measuring consumer attitudes has revealed a significant increase in the number of customers who perceive the chance of their new supplier going bust as a main risk of switching. It is now ranked fourth in the list of perceived risks of changing supplier. Adam John delves into the survey results.
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Pure Planet co-founder Steven Day speaks to Utility Week about why, unlike some other challenger brands, the company is not content to continue racking up debt in search of rapid growth. He describes how digital innovation is continuing to drive down costs for the company.
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Eon has paid out more than £680,000 after an error led to 1.6 million customers having their direct debits taken from their accounts earlier than planned. A majority of the payments affected were due to be taken in January this year, but the large supplier erroneously took payments on 24 December 2020.
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