News Round-Up: Big Six Provider Improves, Alternative Provider Closes In

This week’s news round-up sees Npower turn things around, but one of the alternative providers is gunning for their position in the Big Six. Meanwhile, regional providers are giving their money to various good causes.

NPowerFirst UtilityYorkshire WaterWessex Water
Npower Meets Ofgem’s Expectations And Has Sales Ban Lifted

NpowernewsThe controversial energy provider Npower has been given the green-light by the industry regulator Ofgem to resume telephone sales. It follows a ban that was placed on Npower by Ofgem after being criticised for its customer service standards — it has received more complaint calls than any other utility company since October 2012 — and handling of late bills. It was told that it could only resume sales over the phone if it could prove it had improved its services by the end of August.

From being handed the punishment in June until August, Npower saw an enormous drop in the number of late bills being sent out to customers. The number decreased from 280,000 to 62,000. It far exceeded the target Npower was set by Ofgem over 100,000. Similarly, there was a small decrease in the number of complaints being received. Between June and August the numbers fell by just over 20,000 from 120,016 to 99,799.

Ofgem say they are pleased with the improvements. Sarah Harrison, who is the senior partner for enforcement with the watchdog, said she will be keeping an eye on how Npower progress though. She stated: “This is only a first step to turning round their customer service and billing performance.We will monitor their progress and continue our investigation into the reasons why Npower’s problems occurred.”

NPower says most of its customers are now being billed on time. Furthermore, it plans to continue making improvements to its services for customers and has taken on extra staff to do so. The domestic retail director, Roger Hattam, said: “The journey doesn’t stop here as we’re working hard to make even more improvements.”

First Utility’s Ambitious Plan To Double Customers By 2016

FirstutilityThe boss of First Utility wants to double its number of customers by 2016. The ambitions have been set in motion having become the first alternative energy provider — it is not part of the Big Six companies in the United Kingdom — to pass the one million mark. The chief executive of First Utility, Ian McCaig, claimed that reaching two million customers was a “realistic” goal for the company.

First Utility, which was established in 2008, saw a surge in British business after the price hikes among the Big Six energy providers last year. Over 100,000 households decided to abandon the major providers such as British Gas and Npower and take their custom to First Utility. As a result, First Utility and other small providers now control 8 per cent of the energy market. This number was just 1% in 2011.

Mr. McCaig believes that his company’s milestone represents a change in the market. However, he believes there are two major problems facing smaller utility providers: wholesale price hikes and Ed Miliband’s proposed price freeze which would result in the withdrawl of the company’s cheapest fixed price tariffs. He said: “My concern now is absolutely it stifling competition”.

In the past, Ian McCaig said that Miliband’s plan could be disastrous for a company like First Utility. He said: “A policy like this is potentially materially problematic for an independent provider. Bluntly, it could put me under. How am I going to absorb those costs? I only retail, I don’t generate. The answer is, I can’t.”

Just behind First Utility is Utility Warehouse which has around 850,000 accounts, followed by Ovo which oversees 640,000.

Yorkshire Water Staff Raise Money For Water Aid

yorkshire-water-on-twitterStaff members of the Yorkshire based utility provider Yorkshire Water have raised a staggering amount of money for charity. After a series of themed events, the staff of Yorkshire Water were able to raise more than £175,000 for Water Aid. It will go towards providing better access to clean water for 12,000 people in poverty.

Some of the events that staff members took part in the Great North Run in order to raise money towards Water Air. Others took part in other sports challenges.

The chief executive of Water Aid, Barbara Frost, said: “On behalf of everyone at WaterAid I would like to thank Yorkshire Water for helping us bring safe water and sanitation to some of the world’s poorest communities. Gaining access to water and sanitation really does transform lives; improving health, education and livelihoods and forming the first, essential step in overcoming poverty. The amazing support we receive from businesses and individuals is vital as we work towards a world where everyone, everywhere has clean water to drink and a safe place to go to the toilet.”

The Vice Chairman on Yorkshire Water expressed his pride in his staff’s efforts. David McGlinchey said “We’re very proud of our continuing support for WaterAid and being part of such a long-standing partnership that is making a huge difference to some of the world’s poorest people.”

Wessex Water Awards Local Centre With £500 Donation

wessex waterWessex Water has awarded £500 to the Sherborne Steam and Waterwheel Centre. As part of its Watermark Award, the utility provider has given the centre money to go towards a new audio and visual system. The award was presented on an open day that took place over the weekend by Wessex Water’s Jane Angell.

Geoff Ward, who serves as Chairman of the centre, explained that the money would help the centre tell the story of its own historical context. He said: “The impact that clean drinking water must have had on Sherborne and the subsequent release from the scourge of cholera is a story that still continues in other parts of the world With new audio-visual equipment we hope the centre will be able to tell its story to a wider audience.”

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