Business customer disconnection and payment chasing suspended

Last Wednesday, formal measures to enhance protections for business customers during the Covid-19 pandemic were implemented, covering the period 8 April to 31 May.

Changes to the Customer Protection Code of Practice (CP0006) locked in the changes Ofwat consulted on: that premises are not to be disconnected for non payment of charges during the Covid-19 outbreak; that retailers do not seek to recover any default interest for non payment of invoices during this period; and that retailers do not seek to enforce the non payment of invoices until Ofwat permits this.

Enforcement activity was defined as “any excise by a retailer of its rights for the non-payment of bills and invoices under its Terms and Conditions of Supply. This would therefore include the issue of letters which threaten further action, and any escalation of action from there.”

In view of feedback, Ofwat introduced a number of additions and clarifications to its original proposal:

• inclusion of a new section in the CPCoP requiring retailers to include information on their websites about the measures;

• inclusion of a new section in the CPCoP explicitly stating retailers’ rights are not waived due to the restrictions, and they will be able to exercise their contractual rights again once the lockdown to due Covid-19 is lifted and Ofwat has removed relevant prohibitions from the CPCoP; and

• clarification that all enforcement action must be paused “whether this initially arose prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic or not”.

Extension of the provision on interest to also include late payment charges.

Corresponding changes to the Wholesale Retail Code (CPW094) were made and also implemented on 8 April (running until 31 May) to protect self supply customers from disconnection.