The Consumer Council for Water has urged water companies to push themselves to secure high levels of customer acceptability of their 2020-25 price and service packages in the final few weeks before they submit their business plans to Ofwat on 3 September.
Senior policy manager Steve Hobbs (pictured) said the watchdog is looking for ambition in companies’ customer acceptability testing; for firms to be “thinking on a wider basis than price alone, testing customer acceptability of the service improvements proposed in their plans;” and for evidence that companies have thought about how they convey the key messages in their plans to their customer base. He stressed that customer acceptability of the whole package is vital to secure consumer trust in the legitimacy of the sector, and because it closely mirrors what customer behaviour might look like in a competitive market.
The watchdog said the early signs are good. Hobbs reported: “Most companies are on track to achieve an ‘upper quartile’ position in terms of average levels of uninformed customer acceptability, although CCWater is looking for companies to review their positions and aim even higher in the weeks prior to the submission of their business plans.”
He added that there is also some evidence that companies are conducting more than one phase of customer acceptability testing, and revisiting plans in the meantime to address areas where customer acceptability is particularly low. “This is encouraging to see, as companies with low levels of customer acceptability should take action as a matter of urgency to address the concerns of those who find plans unacceptable. Indeed, multiple phases of acceptability testing may reveal certain customer groups who find the plans less acceptable than others – for example, vulnerable customers or those in financial difficulty – and we will expect companies to take targeted action to address the concerns of these customers.”
Read Hobbs’ full article here