The involvement of third party intermediaries (TPIs) or brokers in the business retail market has the potential to support market development through enabling higher levels of customer engagement.
Undoubtedly, they will be part of the fabric of the new water market in England and so it’s important that they represent the interests of customers fairly and transparently to maintain trust in the sector.
There are clearly concerns about some of the poor practices in the energy sector such as mis-selling, lack of transparency on commission charges and inconsistent advice. Ofwat are currently consulting on their proposed principles for any existing or future voluntary TPI code of conduct and how those principles should be implemented. They are approaching it from a view of protecting customers in the business market.
I think it’s really important for brokers to follow a code of practice – and one that has teeth. In other sectors brokers are subject to voluntary measures, such as codes of practice and some have developed their own accreditation schemes to help customers understand who they can trust.
Although some brokers will have had experience in the water market in Scotland, there will be many others who have not experienced the water market before and are effectively new entrants. Retailers have a role to play in building that knowledge and understanding amongst the broker community.
Water Plus is actively working with brokers to help them understand the water market, and the role of the wholesaler and the retailer so they can effectively manage customer expectations and avoid customer dissatisfaction and complaints.
We’re already dealing with all of the major brokers in the market through our broker management team and we often work in partnership with them to identify opportunities for their customers to save money on water bills.
We are also developing a broker portal to make it easy for brokers to quote instantly, contract online and track the switching process so that customers can be kept informed throughout the process
A part of building trust in the sector would be transparency on arms-length trading not just for water companies but also brokers who hold a WSSL licence whilst being involved in procurement of water retail services. How are they ensuring independence and adequate separation of functions and systems within their organisations on simple things like confidentiality of customer information?
I believe a code of practice is the right direction to take so we can all build a strong new market that is trusted by business customers, brokers and TPIs alike.
Ofwat are asking for responses to be sent by 7 March for their consultation on their proposed principles for any existing or future voluntary TPI code of conduct and how those principles should be implemented.