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  • by Karma Loveday

Ofwat consults on boost protection for Covid-closed businesses

Ofwat is consulting until 9 December on an urgent change proposal to the Customer Protection Code of Practice, to safeguard the interests of business customers in light of the latest Covid-19 restrictions issued by government.

The regulator has proposed:

• clarifying the expectations of retailers in terms of promoting and signing up customers to Covid repayment schemes; • ensuring retailers take reasonable steps to maintain contact with customers on Covid-19 repayment schemes to understand their circumstances and tailor their plans before any kind of debt collection action (including the use of debt collection agents, interest, late payment fees, disconnection) is pursued; • ensuring retailers are able to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to engage with their customers before taking any debt recovery action; • ensuring retailers publish on a monthly basis on their websites data relating to the number of non-household customers that are on repayment plans (Covid and any other) and the level of enforcement action being carried out.

The consultation comes after CCW proposed a similar but more extensive set of protections for those businesses required to close by law due to the second lockdown in England and the tiered system that pre and post dated it. CCW wanted these customers to be protected automatically from disconnection, interest payments and enforcement activities.

Ofwat has issued a Call for inputs (closing on 22 January) on customer bad debt resulting from Covid-19 pressures and restrictions. It wants information to help it assess whether and how revisions to regulatory protections may be warranted.

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