Case study - Assist
We want our bills to be affordable for all customers.
Debt recovery indicators, such as increasing unpaid bills and increasing bankruptcies during the year, indicate a growing strain on people’s finances.
We are committed to providing affordable services for all customers. For those who have genuine difficulties in paying, we have a package of schemes and a specific tariff that sets out an affordable payment routine.
In 2007 we launched our Assist tariff, making us the first water and sewerage company to introduce a lower rate tariff based on customers’ ability to pay.
The tariff has now been fully approved by Ofwat which means customers who are experiencing growing amounts of debt will continue to benefit.
Around 6,000 customers have already benefited from the tariff, making a contribution to water and sewerage services but at a rate they can afford.
We have found that by engaging positively with this group of customers, reducing their bill while directing them towards practical help with their finances we have increased the amount of payment we have received. On average we have reduced charges by 50% to customers on Assist but have at the same time increased the amount of payment received from them by 30%.
Our Restart schemes, also designed to help customers who are struggling to pay, are continuing to work well. Evidence suggests that 14 out of 15 people on the schemes do not fall into arrears again.
The tariff has been successful because it offers manageable and affordable bills with customers committing to an amount that they can afford. It encourages customers to get into a payment routine and this will benefit us further when the customer’s financial circumstances improve.
Eligible customers must have received independent debt advice and the tariff’s success relies fundamentally on the work of independent debt advice agencies, such as local Citizen’s Advice, carrying out full benefit checks, looking into customers’ financial outgoings and working out their ability to pay.