British Gas owner joins the rush for trades-connection platforms

Centrica has expanded into the home services in a bid to capitalise on the market which has an estimated value of £5.7 billion.

The energy supplier today revealed that it’s Local Heroes service is open for business. The digital platform links consumers with trusted tradespeople, making it easier to get legitimate quotes for plumbing, heating, electrical and drainage jobs.

All work conducted by listed “local heroes” will be backed by a 12-month guarantee from British Gas.

Centrica has been incubating the Local Heroes platform since early 2016, conducting regional pilot schemes to test user responses and issues.

Mark Hodges, chief executive of Centrica’s consumer business unit described the new initiative as a “a perfect example of how we see innovation and new technologies flourishing”.

He calimed Local Heroes is the UK’s “first online platform that offers a complete start-to-finish experience, introducing current and next generation Centrica customers to local tradesmen – crucially, all backed by the peace of mind of a British Gas guarantee.”

Centrica is, however, by no means the first UK energy supplier to eye opportunity in the home services market.

In April, First Utility announced a new partnership with on-demand services platform Bizzby which similarly links customers with trusted local tradespeople and in May fellow independent supplier Ovo Energy acquired Corgi Homeplan, the UK’s third largest home service provider.

Explaining the rush of supplier interest in homes services, First Utility managing director Ed Kamm told Utility Week it is part of an industry wide attempt to overcome the challenge of a two-tier energy market in which disengaged customers are very hard to reach or maintain relationships with.

“We all have to think of ways to improve our busiensses” to address this, said Kamm.

He added: “When you look at home services, a lot of customers don’t know where to go. If you need a gas safety engineer, if you need an electrician – a lot of customers don’t use these that frequently and therefore don’t know where to go.

“We therefore think there is a great opportunity to change that industry and challenge it to work harder for consumers.”

Kamm said he expects more energy suppliers to make moves in the home services market this year, as well as service providers from other sectors.

“Multiple players want access to the home,” he stated. “We see that with Apple and Google and Amazon and they are finding different ways to do that…this is an area that will go through a lot of change and I think we will see a lot of new business models develop.”

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