Ofwat seeks Covid-19 repayment schemes from retailers

Ofwat has proposed refining its approach to business customer protections during coronavirus, so those whose premises are closed continue to receive top level protection, while retailers have more flexibility to tailor an approach to others.

Under CP0007, the Customer Protection Code of Practice would be altered to ensure the existing suspension of retailers’ right to disconnect customers for non-payment, charge interest/late payment fees or enforce payment would continue for all “Covid-19 affected customers” – premises marked as vacant, or those who have seen a 95%+ decrease in usual activities.

For all other customers, retailers will be required to devise a “Covid-19 Repayment Scheme” setting out the steps they will take to consider a customer’s ability to pay; the specific terms and conditions of the different repayment plan offerings they will make to take account of those different circumstances; and contact details for customers to use should they disagree with the retailer’s assessment. Ofwat acknowledged this group would include both customers experiencing Covid pressures such as payment difficulties and consumption cuts, and those whose operations/consumption are unaffected or improved by the pandemic.

The consultation runs until 20 May, with implementation of decisions proposed for 1 June.