A NEW consumer protection agreement has been agreed today between members of the Heat Networks Industry Council.
Measures agreed include ensuring all customers remain supplied with energy, heating and hot water through challenging times and supporting customers in financial distress.
Commitments in the agreement include identifying and prioritising customers at risk, supporting customers who are impacted financially, supporting prepayment meter customers to stay on supply and providing information, advice and guidance to customers on what help is available.
Dan McGrail, Chair of The Heat Networks Industry Council, commented on the announcement: “The heat network industry recognises the challenges vulnerable and low-income customers might face during this pandemic.
“These consumer protection measures reflect a trajectory we have been on for some time and that’s why we’re putting them at the heart of our response and setting out today what protections we’re putting in place to help.
“Clearly, the situation is changing quickly, and we recognise that the situation for the heat network sector and their customers may change in future.
“Under these circumstances, the companies signed up to the agreement will review whether the commitments above remain appropriate, with support from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
“The Heat Networks Industry Council will continue to work with the broader industry to encourage more companies to sign up to this agreement and ensure that all heat network customers in the UK are supported during this difficult time.
“The agreement is supported by Heat Trust, an independent, non-profit consumer champion for heat network customers.
“In response to the national emergency, Heat Trust has issued specific guidance on vulnerable customers including making every reasonable effort to support and help a Heat Customer that experiences difficulty, including restructuring their payments so that they are manageable and affordable.”
The agreement is signed by the following organisations, representing heat network providers to tens of thousands of customers: Chair of the Heat Networks Industry Council, EDF Energy, ENGIE, Energetik, E.ON, Pinnacle Power, SSE Heat Networks Ltd, Switch2, Vattenfall, Veolia and Vital Energi.
The Council and the Association for Decentralised Energy met Kwasi Kwarteng, Energy and Clean Growth Minister, to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the heat networks industry and will ‘continue to work constructively with Government throughout this period.’
Mr Kwarteng commented: “The coronavirus pandemic is affecting every household in this country.
“It is vital that customers know there is support available if they have difficulty in paying their energy bills.
“Today’s consumer protection agreement means that those heat network operators who sign up are committing to providing the best possible support they can to their customers.
“I would urge them all to sign up.”
The Council encourages heat network companies in the UK to sign up to these commitments and the Association for Decentralised Energy, on behalf of the Council, will maintain a public updated list of signatories to this agreement.
The Scottish Government Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse added: “I welcome this commitment from the Heat Networks Industry Council, which will provide much needed certainty for customers in these uncertain times.
“Ensuring vulnerable customers or those in financial difficulty have protection, regardless of how their homes are supplied with heat and hot water is a priority for the Scottish Government.
“We will continue to work with the sector to minimise any disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I encourage any heat network operators or customers to notify us if they are experiencing difficulty.”