Bringing heat networks up to standard: How heat networks can start delivering better customer service outcomes
Heat networks are one of the key technologies in the government’s strategy to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050. To encourage people to move into homes connected to heat networks and to help support existing consumers; heat networks need to make sure they are providing clear and transparent information about their services.
We’ve had concerns about how heat network suppliers inform consumers about their services for some time. Our previous research found that many suppliers don’t provide enough online information about their services.
To improve consumer outcomes, we’ve been advocating for heat network suppliers to be regulated like all other gas and electricity suppliers. Ofgem regulates these markets and sets rules on customer service, such as requiring all suppliers to provide clear and transparent information about their energy tariffs.
Following a CMA market study in 2018, the government agreed with us and announced that all heat networks in Great Britain will be regulated. This will mean that heat network consumers will have similar protections to all other gas and electricity consumers.
Whilst this is good news, regulation could take some time to come into force. We want heat suppliers to begin providing their consumers with information they need now.
To find out what heat network suppliers still need to fix, we analysed the information given to customers by 20 heat network suppliers. We reviewed the information on their websites and also mystery shopped their customer service phone lines.
We found that many suppliers are not providing clear and transparent information and support. To fix these problems and make sure consumers can access the information they need, heat suppliers should:
Make sure consumers can get through to them on their telephone lines
Explain to consumers how their heating costs are calculated and provide an annual estimated bill
Support consumers in vulnerable circumstances including those who need support through COVID 19
Have a clear complaints processes that lets consumers escalate their concerns to the Energy Ombudsman
Please note we removed the research findings for one supplier on 30/04/2021 because It came to our attention that the incorrect customer service number was used during the mystery shopping research.