Heat Trust has welcomed findings from the Government’s Heat Network Consumer Survey, released today, which has found that heat networks registered with the scheme are providing better billing and customer service standards for consumers.

The survey, which was carried out for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) by independent researchers, received over 5,000 responses. It looked at satisfaction with heating systems, price and transparency of billing, and customer service.

The report found that customers living on heat networks registered with Heat Trust received more comprehensive billing information and service interruptions were rectified quicker that on sites that were not registered with the scheme.

Heat Trust, a stakeholder-led customer protection scheme, sets consistent customer service standards for the heat network sector, building on standards in the gas and electricity markets.
The findings from BEIS follow the release of Heat Trust’s first Annual Report released in October this year which provided the first snapshot of the issues that are concerning customers on heat networks.

Each heat network that registers with Heat Trust is required to submit data on complaint volumes, faults, and supply interruptions every six months. In addition, the Energy Ombudsman provides feedback on complaints it receives from customers on Heat Trust registered sites.

Head of Scheme at Heat Trust Bindi Patel has welcomed the findings of the BEIS report. “We are pleased that the report has highlighted the work of Heat Trust is raising customer service standards in the sector,” she said.

“Customer satisfaction must be at the heart of plans to grow the heat network sector and this research, combined with findings from Heat Trust’s own reports, is helping to provide a clearer picture of consumer experience, which can be used to build a strong sector for the future.

“Heat Trust plays an important role in ensuring consistent service standards and we believe that all heat networks should meet and provide monitoring against the Heat Trust standards, and this should be a condition of schemes in receipt of public funding.”

The Heat Trust scheme, which was launched in 2015, covers 51 heat networks and more than 32,500 customers. It provides an independent dispute resolution service for consumers through an agreement with the Energy Ombudsman and works with its Stakeholder Committee to monitor customer service performance and identify ways to drive up service standards.

The government will feed in the results of the survey to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which announced today that it is carrying out a comprehensive market study into the heat networks sector.

The CMA study, which will be completed within the next 12 months, will look into whether customers are aware of the costs of heat networks both before and after moving into a property; whether heat networks are natural monopolies and the impact of differing incentives for builders, operators and customers of heat networks and the prices, service quality and reliability of heat networks.

“We welcome the launch of the CMA study into domestic heat networks,” said Bindi. “Heat Trust has taken the first steps in building a clear evidence base on the service that customers are receiving, and we look forward to engaging with the CMA on the forthcoming market study.

“It is essential that customers have a voice in shaping the market and the Heat Trust is keen to see consistent and measurable industry-wide standards on customer service and protection.”