Utilities ripe for revolution, says Ofwat's Chief Executive

Posted: Thursday 21st December 2017

Ofwat's chief executive believes the water sector, and other utilities, are ripe for a revolution as she predicts a radical shake-up in how customers buy utilities and home services.

Speaking at the Water 2017 conference, Ofwat's outgoing Chief Executive, Cathryn Ross, said that in the coming years, customers would no longer have multiple providers for home services and utilities. Instead, they would work with just one company which would take care of all the administration and much of the decision making when it comes to their bills and contracts for water, energy, broadband, home insurance and home emergency cover.

In a speech looking ahead to the next price review period, which runs from 2020-2025, Ross predicts this profound change will be shaped by specialist companies emerging and using leading edge data analysis to better understand customers' needs and priorities and find the best combination of services at the right price.

Cathryn Ross said:

"Imagine a world in which you don't even know who your supplier of water and waste water services is, or who supplies your energy, or broadband, or maybe even your home insurance and emergency cover. Because you have a contract with an intermediary who takes care of all that for you.

"You may well have given them the ability to turn some bits of your home infrastructure on and off to manage demand and reduce costs, because this will enable you to get a better deal.

"To my mind this means the water sector, indeed all utilities, are ripe for a revolution."

Customers increasingly put a premium on peace of mind and convenience. This societal change, alongside improvements in technology and skills to unlock the power of data, will lead to the emergence of companies who will meet customers' needs in a way current providers are not doing and herald a fundamental, cross-sector shake-up.

If these radical changes emerge, Cathryn Ross warned regulators they will need to change radically, too.

In particular, she challenged regulators 'to stop thinking in our silos about water bill payers, energy bill payers, telecoms bill payers, insurance customers and start thinking about home services' customers. Or better still human beings, with busy lives and competing demands on their money and time.'

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