Why do we need Burst Allowances?
Where a burst causes a customer’s metered consumption, and therefore their charges, to increase an LP can gain relief of some or all of these charges by applying for a Burst Allowance.
In July 2018, after extensive review, we published an updated version of the non-household Burst Allowance Policy. The previous scheme had been in operation for around eight years and we used feedback from LPs, customers and other external stakeholders to inform some improvements to provide a fair and customer-focussed policy. The aim was for the policy to soften the blow of increased volumetric charges due to leakage whilst maintaining reasonable incentives for customers to proactively monitor their consumption to minimise water loss.
What did we change in 2018?
We increased the maximum allowance period from six to nine months for biannually read meters. This gives customers an additional three months on top of a normal read cycle to identify and resolve leakage issues before being financially penalised.
We introduced the 50% water & waste allowance for private leakage. Under the previous policy for instances of private leakage, credit provided would only be given for waste water. This meant that customers that only had water connections (e.g. farms) received no burst allowance for private leakage as they did not have any waste charges. The 50% water & waste allowance for private leakage allows customers gain the benefit of a Burst Allowance for some of the excess charges caused by private bursts.
We removed the previously exclusion for faulty private equipment. In the past a request for an allowance due to a faulty ball cock on a cistern, for example, would have been rejected as the water used would have returned to the sewer. Under the new policy, assuming all relevant information and evidence is provided, customers can gain a 50% water & waste allowance for private “leakage” in these cases.
How have these changes affected customers?
In 2017-18, 21% of approved Burst Allowance applications covered the entire leakage period. That means that for 79% of customers the increased charges caused by the burst lasted longer than the maximum six months of the burst allowance.
In 2018-19, with the introduction of the new policy, the number of approved allowances covering the entire leakage period increased to 56%. So far in 2019-20 this has increased again to 60%, showing that where customers act promptly to repair a burst they can now benefit from relief from excess charges for the full duration of the burst.
In the last year, over 70 customers with Water only connections have benefited from allowances for private leakage that would not have been available under the previous policy.
These figures show that customers have already benefited from the policy changes but we are keen to look at how else we can support Licensed Providers in this area.
How can we improve?
Over the coming months we will provide online assistance for Licensed Providers, including highlighting what information will help Burst Allowance requests to be resolved first time. For instance, if there are special circumstances that will affect average normal consumption, such as occupancy, Licensed Providers can provide this information with the application so that it is taken into account in the calculations.
Currently the Operational Code process means that Scottish Water isn’t able to provide our calculations to Licensed Providers for review before the CMA is updated as we currently do with other types of adjustment meters. If you have any ideas or suggestions on how to improve the burst allowance process, please contact Grant McIntosh.