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Thu June 13 2024

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NFB gathers the dirt on utilities

29 Jul 11 A £2.5m fine imposed by utilities regulator Ofgem on British Gas for its inadequate complaints procedure, should serve as a warning to all utilities providers, says the National Federation of Builders (NFB) as it prepares its latest report on the sector's shortcomings.

NFB says that its members “have traditionally faced problems” when requesting connections from and dealing with utility companies. It is now collating evidence to use in a new push for improvements.

NFB surveys of building companies in both 2006 and 2008 revealed extensive problems with utility network companies, resulting in a regulatory review in electricity connections, as well as action by Ofwat, the water regulator.

The 2006 survey found that: 85.9% of sites reported experiencing problems when seeking a new connection to the utility networks; more than 40% of sites seeking connections to the water and gas networks reported problems; and more than 60% of sites seeking a new connection to the electricity networks reported problems. Causes of problems included poor communication, issues surrounding adherence to agreed programmes, agreement on cost, and the length of time taken in issuing quotations, and agreeing to supply.

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The 2011 NFB Utility Survey is now gathering information. The aim is to quantify the cost, both in terms of resources and direct financial loss, of problems in dealing with utilities companies. It will also assess whether there has been any improvement in service within the utilities sector over the past two years.

The report, expected in the autumn, will highlight the impact of any improvements or need for further change in the industry.  In particular, the report will address the outcome of previous recommendations:

  • Opening up to increased competition
  • Enforced service level agreements
  • Better education for contractors
  • Single teams dealing with cases from start to finish
  • Named contacts for contractors
  • Fines for poor performance.

 Any contractor wishing to share their experiences can complete the survey online here

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