Friday 05 April 2019

Heat Trust welcomes the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth’s open letter to all heat network operators on improving customer service. Noting that government intends to legislate, the Minister calls for industry to improve consumer experience by building on existing good practice now, rather than waiting for regulation.

The Rt Hon Claire Perry MP said:

I encourage all owners and operators of heat networks who are not currently registered with Heat Trust and who do not offer equivalent standards to consider joining. The quality standards that the voluntary scheme sets out will give your consumers important reassurance and protections.

Heat networks will play a significant role in meeting heat decarbonisation targets, with expectations that up to 1.5million households will be served by a heat network by 2030.  It is vital that as the sector evolves customers are assured service standards that are comparable to the rest of the energy market.

In welcoming the letter, Bindi Patel, Head of Scheme for Heat Trust said:

"Heat networks need to work for customers, and at Heat Trust we have been working to promote better customer service practices in the heat network sector since 2015. The standards we set are designed to ensure customers benefit from a level of service and protection that is comparable to the rest of the energy market.

 

“We support the call for regulation, but proactive action is needed now. We welcome the Minister’s letter encouraging all heat networks to join Heat Trust. With over three years’ experience, Heat Trust can support the market to ensure heat suppliers are equipped and prepared for future regulation.

 

“We also recognise that as the market evolves, so too should our standards. We are keen to work and engage with all types of suppliers to understand their needs and help inform future development of the scheme.”

For more information about Heat Trust visit www.heattrust.org

ENDS

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Notes to editors

Heat Trust launched in November 2015. It sets out a common standard in the quality and level of customer service that heat suppliers should provide their customers.

It also provides an independent process with the Energy Ombudsman for settling complaints between customers and their heat supplier. This service is free for customers to access.

In 2018, Heat Trust consulted on expanding the Scheme by allowing those sites without Heat Customer Supply Agreements to join if they provide equivalent protections, e.g. a customer charter. As a result, there is the potential for thousands more customers to benefit from the same protections. The Heat Trust Scheme Rules were amended to include this change from 1 April 2019.

For more information on the consultation click here.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Thousands more people who receive heat through a heat network will now be able to access free independent complaint resolution and minimum customer service standards. Heat Trust, the independent customer protection scheme has extended its eligibility requirements to enable heat network suppliers with Customer Charters, or equivalent, to register. To-date, heat network suppliers have been required to have a Heat Energy Supply Agreement in place with each customer before being eligible to register. 

Head of Scheme Bindi Patel said more than 37,000 customers were already benefiting from being on heat networks registered with Heat Trust and thousands more customers could now have the same protection as a result of the change. 

"The change recognises that many heat network suppliers, particularly housing authorities and local authorities, often capture heating and hot water provision in tenancy or leasehold agreements as opposed to a specific Heat Energy Supply Agreement. 

 

"By opening up eligibility to these operators who can demonstrate they have clear commitments to specific service standards and terms and conditions in place, we are able to offer Heat Trust benefits to thousands more customers on heat networks across the UK."

The extension of Heat Trust to such operators follows an open consultation.

Virginia Graham of the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC) welcomed the extension of the Scheme. 

“By enabling more heat networks to register with Heat Trust, thousands more customers will be given an assurance dependable heat supplies and high-quality service." 

For more information about Heat Trust visit www.heattrust.org

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Heat Trust launched in November 2015. It sets out a common standard in the quality and level of customer service that heat suppliers should provide their customers. It also provides an independent process with the Energy Ombudsman for settling complaints between customers and their heat supplier. This service is free for customers to access.

The Modification to the Heat Trust Scheme Rules (SR0003) will come into effect from the 1 April 2019

  • The Consultation Report can be found here.
  • All Heat Trust Registered Sites can be found here.
  • Download Press Release here.

Friday 16 November 2018

The number of heat customers benefitting from free independent complaint resolution and minimum customer service standards has more than doubled, from 15,000 customers in 2015 to over 35,000 customers today.

The information is reported in Heat Trust’s second Annual Report which was published this week. Heat Trust is the stakeholder-led customer protection scheme that sets consistent customer service standards for the heat network sector, building on standards in the gas and electricity markets.

More than 54 heat networks are now registered with Heat Trust and an additional 18 applications are in the registration process. All large energy service companies with residential networks have now registered one or more heat networks with the scheme.

“It is imperative that customers on heat networks have an assurance in the service they will receive and that if these standards aren’t met, then customers are able to access independent complaint resolution”, said Head of Scheme Bindi Patel.

“The number of sites which have voluntarily been registered with Heat Trust continues to grow and this means we are able to provide more and more customers with this assurance, and in doing so drive up industry standards.”

The report reveals that billing and customer service are the most frequent issues raised by customers. Over the year:

  • 3,550 customer complaints were recorded of which 92% were resolved within the monitoring period, representing a customer to complaint ratio of 11%. By comparison, the regulated market has a complaint ratio of 20% per 100,000 customers.
  • 206 customers contacted the Energy Ombudsman and 116 cases were within the Energy Ombudsman’s terms of reference. Over half of complaints (55%) were upheld by the Energy Ombudsman.
  • Most complaints (61%) were about back-billing or billing. A further 27% were due to customer service.
  • A goodwill payment was awarded in 62 cases. A total of £4,888 was awarded in 2017, these ranged from £5 to £629. The average award for complaints in 2017 was £78.84. A further 11 cases were received in 2017 and closed in 2018. The total goodwill payments for these were £669.

“While independent Government research has clearly demonstrated that customers on sites registered with Heat Trust receive more comprehensive billing information than non-registered sites, our data shows that heat network operators can make further improvements by ensuring bills are accurate and clear,” said Ms Patel.

This year, for the first time Heat Trust has also reported on outages on heat networks, finding:

  • A total of 41 planned interruptions and 469 unplanned Interruptions were recorded over the year.
  • Energy centre failure was the cause of 48% of unplanned customer outages.
  • 23% of unplanned interruptions affected between 500 – 1000 customers.

“Heat Trust will continue to work with our Registered Participants to build an evidence base of the performance of heat networks. Our aim is to build a reliable picture of the heat network market and highlight where improvements can be made to ensure customer received a reliable and efficient service,” said Ms Patel.

ENDS

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Monday 23rd July 2018

Heat Trust supports the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA’s) call for the heat network industry to be regulated and welcomes its recommendation that the framework draws on Heat Trust’s experience. 

The CMA made the recommendation in its final Heat Network Market Study report. The CMA referenced the customer benefit that Heat Trust had delivered and recommended that Ofgem, BEIS and the devolved governments draw on Heat Trust’s experience, customer protection measures and standards when designing the regulatory framework.

Responding to the final report, Head of Scheme Bindi Patel said:

 “Heat Trust welcomes the final report from the CMA on its Heat Networks Market Study and its recommendations.  Referencing BEIS’s consumer survey, the CMA’s report highlights that 74% of Heat Trust registered schemes felt they had a description of how their bills had been calculated, compared with only 31% of those on non-registered schemes.

“Examples such as these clearly demonstrate the standards set by Heat Trust, including support for vulnerable customers, guaranteed service payments for interruptions, access to the Energy Ombudsman and providing clear terms of service, are delivering positive benefits to both customers and the market.  

“Introducing a proportionate regulatory regime will guarantee customer protection and mandate the standards already put in place by Heat Trust and its members. We are pleased that the CMA has recommended that a future regulatory framework builds on the work of Heat Trust.”

Heat Trust responded to the CMA's market study and will work with government and other sector bodies to progress the report recommendations.

Notes to editors:
Heat Trust launched in November 2015. It sets out a common standard in the quality and level of customer service that heat suppliers should provide their customers. These are designed to be comparable, as far as possible, to the standards set in the regulated energy market. It also provides an independent process with the Energy Ombudsman for settling complaints between customers and their heat supplier. This service is free for customers to access.

Heat Trust has grown to 53 heat networks and approximately 33,000 customers. 

Thursday 10 May 2018

Heat Trust welcomes the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA’s) announcement that is has provisionally concluded there is a need for a statutory regulatory regime for heat networks.

Responding to the announcement, Bindi Patel, Head of Scheme said:

“Today’s announcement from the CMA is supported and welcomed by Heat Trust.

“The initial finding that there is a need for a statutory regulatory regime for heat networks concurs with our view that all customers, on all heat networks, should be assured of reliable heat supplies, excellent service and access to independent redress.”

Heat Trust responded to the CMA’s Statement of Scope and is pleased to see the CMA is considering steps in a number of areas already highlighted by Heat Trust. This includes ensuring customers are provided with clear information on heat network, better pre-transaction information and improvements to the information provided by Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs).

The CMA has also proposed requiring heat suppliers to comply with rules on price and quality in long-term contracts and the development of industry–wide performance metrics.

Bindi continued:

“As shown by the BEIS Consumer Survey and referenced by the CMA in its report, the standards set by Heat Trust, including support for vulnerable customers, guaranteed service payments for interruptions, access to the Energy Ombudsman and providing clear terms of service, are delivering positive benefits to both customers and the market.  

“We look forward to engaging with the CMA as it finalises its report and with other stakeholders on developing a sustainable and proportionate regulatory framework that works for all customers”.

ENDS

Notes to editors:
Heat Trust launched in November 2015. It sets out a common standard in the quality and level of customer service that heat suppliers should provide their customers. These are designed to be comparable, as far as possible, to the standards set in the regulated energy market. It also provides an independent process with the Energy Ombudsman for settling complaints between customers and their heat supplier. This service is free for customers to access.

Heat Trust has grown to 53 heat networks and approximately 33,000 customers. 

Download the press release