Billing best practice guide coverWith more than half a million households living with unregulated communal heating systems that fall outside of the energy price cap, a consumer body is advising landlords and heat network operators on handling concerns around soaring bills.   

Heat Trust, which runs the voluntary consumer protection scheme for heat networks, is urging heat providers to offer flexible payment plans among other measures to help support families struggling to pay their bills.

The body had warned that residents could receive winter heating bills as high as £1,000 a month before the recently announced government support.

As heat network operators await news on how their tenants and leaseholders will receive financial help promised by Liz Truss, Heat Trust is still expecting energy providers and landlords to experience an influx of billing disputes and complaints.  

Stephen Knight, Director of Heat Trust, who is currently working with Ofgem on upcoming regulation for the sector, said: “As we enter the heating season during a time of unprecedented energy prices, it is vital that heat suppliers make sure they bill customers accurately.  

“Even with the government support, residents with communal heating could still face bills twice the price of those with traditional gas central heating. 

“This means energy providers need to be prepared to accommodate reasonable customer requests for flexibility in payment arrangements.” 

A new best practice guide issued by Heat Trust highlights the advantages of dealing with complaints in a reasonable timeframe and the value of feedback for making improvements. 

Complaints best practice cover

By resolving issues on a case-by-case basis and, when appropriate, offering reparation reflecting the inconvenience caused to the customer, suppliers will not damage trust and give families the best chance of avoiding fuel poverty. 

The guidelines also emphasise the importance of having well-equipped teams to respond to customers across all communication channels with empathy, efficiency, and professionalism.   

Stephen Knight added: “We understand that heat network operators – such as social landlords and local councils – are also experiencing financial challenges. 

“But these families are not protected by a price cap, or the Energy Price Guarantee.

“These guidelines will ensure better support is in place for those struggling with their bills. 

“It is also the chance to review processes and improve customer service – which is all the more important given the upcoming regulation. We encourage any operators who haven’t done so already to register their heat network with Heat Trust to provide their customers with the best possible protection.” 

Access the guides on the Heat Trust website here.