Large wholesalers based in the Yorkshire and Wessex/Bristol regions, and their associated retailers, are performing best on up-to-date meter reads, according to data published by MOSL last week for the first time. The new information shows both how individual trading parties are doing, and the overall picture, which has got worse since market opening.
Of the large retailers, Yorkshire Water Services and Water2Business topped the chart with over 95% of their meters read in the past 12 months. This aligns with Ofwat’s Customer Protection Code of Practice requirement for a customer to receive an accurate bill or invoice using a meter read each year. It is also the key metric that MOSL tracks trading parties against in its Data Improvement Plans for companies, launched in autumn (see below). The worst performer was SES Business Water, where just shy of 75% of meters had been read in the past 12 months.
In the round, smaller retailers did better than larger ones, with all but SSE Water ( about 65%) approaching or over the 90% mark for meters read in the past year. Self suppliers put in a solid performance with some nearing 100%. While having fewer meters to read is an obvious advantage, the data suggests the number of meters in a portfolio is not the determining factor on performance.
The same is true for large wholesalers. Yorkshire, Wessex and Bristol came top with over 95% of their meters having been read within the past 12 months, while SES Water and Thames trailed the rest with equivalent figures of around 75%.
In terms of the overall picture, MOSL reported 15% of meters had not been read in the past year, up from 7% when the market opened. Meanwhile 5% of the current 1.1m meters in the market have not been read in more than 24 months, which means these have not been a read since before market opening.
MOSL released the performance data to drive a step-change in tackling poor customer data quality in the retail market. It builds on the commitment it set out in its Market Performance Operating Plan. The market operator said publishing the long unread meter data was part of its continued commitment to provide clarity, accountability and transparency in the high priority areas of improvement needed to help customers.
MOSL’s interim chief executive Des Burke, explained: “We have been working with companies for some time to tackle the worst issues, like meters left unread for years, but while some are delivering on commitments they gave us, others are struggling to do so, and some performance is actually getting worse. That clearly must change for this market to deliver for its customers, and this new move will help that.”
Lynne Stephens, chief operating officer at top performing national retailer Water2business, applauded the move by MOSL in a bid to urge retailers to improve: “As a national retailer, processing the on-boarding of a new customer can be incredibly challenging when the previous retailer’s data is not up to the standards of quality that we expect, especially when it’s to do with the customer’s meter. It can have a knock-on effect on the customer, who rightfully expects the switching process to be seamless and straightforward, but instead they may be left waiting while we try to obtain the correct data…We are committed to working towards our goal of ensuring 100 per cent of our meters are read every 12 months or less.”
Market rules require no more than six months between meter readings.
In September 2018, MOSL called for Data Improvement Plans from all trading parties. These plans focus on the most serious areas of poor quality data including meter reading and wholesaler meter asset data quality which materially affect the ability of retailers to read meters. The market operator said “three months into these plans, some companies have achieved the levels of improvement forecast in their plans but many of the forecast levels of improvement have not been achieved”.