Firms must dig deeper on social tariffs says consumer watchdog

The Consumer Council for Water has called on water companies to contribute more funding to the social tariff pot, and on Ofwat to start reporting on these contributions to encourage companies to dig deep.

In a recent blog, senior policy manager, Andy White (pictured), warned social tariff “funding is now at risk of running dry, despite many more customers still needing help” because the sums available are dictated by what other customers are willing to pay in cross-subsidies.

To offer help to more of those who need it, and in particular to capitalise on the opportunity provided by the Digital Economy Act which gives water companies access to data to help them to identify candidates for support,

White said companies should step up. “We want to see water companies contribute more funding to the social tariff pot. This would be a great way for them to share profits with customers and in doing so would demonstrate that they are good corporate citizens. We also know from research that customers are more willing to contribute to helping others where they can see companies are also playing their part.”

He added: “We would like to see Ofwat recognise this and encourage such contributions by reporting on them, possibly using the ratio of company to customer contributions as an indicator of performance in this area.”

Separately in the post, White said that common performance commitments (PC) on affordability and vulnerability should supplement the bespoke PCs scoped out by Ofwat for PR19. He suggested a common PC on customer affordability might be based on customer perceptions of the affordability of their bills; while the wider vulnerability common PC could be assessed based on customers’ awareness of the assistance available and satisfaction with the inclusivity of services provided.