Call for protection for heat network consumers

Government urged to close a legal loophole for heat networks

The government has been urged to close a legal loophole that leaves hundreds of thousands of heat network customers at risk of losing heating and hot water when their building’s gas supply is disconnected.

Responding to the government’s call for evidence on domestic customers reliant on non-domestic energy contracts, the Heat Trust said these offer far less protection than those for domestic utility customers, which are protected by Ofgem licence conditions. 

The consumer body for heat network customers says this lack of protection has led to cases where entire blocks of flats have faced disconnection from their gas supply because of payment issues involving a building management company. The trust is calling for whole residential buildings to be protected from disconnection if an owner or manager fails to pay bills on time. 

It is also recommending an ongoing price ceiling for non-domestic supplies serving residential buildings, to give customers equivalent protection to the price cap enjoyed under domestic energy contracts.

In addition, the Heat Trust raised in its response the lack of access communal electricity customers have to the Warm Homes Discount Scheme, which offers top-up payments for certain low-income customers. 

Stephen Knight, director of Heat Trust, said: ‘While the government is separately looking at regulating the operators of communal and district heating systems, which is great news, customers are also impacted by the lack of regulation of the energy supply to these operators.’