UCSM

Utility Customer Service Management Ltd.

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Stories page

The price is right!

A local building company first approached UCSM for help with a particular job a full 6 months after the local Distribution Network Operator (DNO) had given them a quote for over £17k for installing the electricity supplies to 8 new industrial units.
The quote was not in fact the issue, what was the issue was the fact that, when they asked for the quote to be amended to reflect an increased capacity in two of the eight supplies, the quote jumped to over £47k!
With time of the essence, the larger quote was reluctantly accepted and the scheme progressed. The magnitude of the difference in the 2 quotes nevertheless left a lasting impression, as 6 months later the details of the scheme were related to UCSM.
The magnitude of the step change certainly appeared disproportionate and it was agreed that UCSM would undertake the work acting on behalf of the builder.
The first approach to the local DNO returned a response stating that an error had occurred on the original scheme and that this was the main cause for the high difference between the two proposals. Further investigations with the DNO revealed that the error related to the omission of a feeder pillar on the original scheme which was in fact required. The DNO went on further (after an exchange of letters) to explain that the item of equipment in question amounted to some £10k.
It doesn’t take rocket science to be able to work out that £17k plus £10k does not equal £47k. The sums simply do not add up.
Months went by, and much correspondence was exchanged. Energy Watch became involved and the local DNO stood firm in its stance, introducing a number of other factors, but again re-emphasised that the main reason for the difference was the feeder pillar.
In fact, it was 5 months later that the DNO finally announced that the scheme had again been looked at and that a refund of some £14k was due.
It was a full 12 months after paying the original sum that the builder eventually received a refund of over £14k and the matter was brought to a conclusion.
It would be fair to say, that the price which is originally offered is not always the best, nor can it be necessarily assumed to be correct – as is evident from the above example, sometimes it can take a great deal of time and effort to get the right price!



The price of gas!

A local builder who had by the time UCSM had become involved had planning permission to develop 37 new houses on a site in the Forest of Dean with commencement on site imminent.
The builder approached UCSM simply to see if we could bring about an improvement in the terms they had been offered for gas supplies to the site – a quote in excess of £18k was already on the table from the local gas network operator.
Time was clearly not on our side and a number of other suitable contractors were contacted with a view to obtaining alternative quotations – the first one was delivered just over a week later for a zero charge which could be further reduced to a credit of £1k if they were allowed to appoint the suppliers.
The builder had little commercial choose than to accept the new quote and add £18k to his bottom line!



It’s tough when you first start.

A person new to building recently approached UCSM for us to obtain the quotes for the installation and diversion of utilities on his new site of 6 dwellings.
The builder took advantage of UCSM’s introductory charge and paid a total of £210 for us to obtain all the quotes for him.
Some 4 months after being commissioned and having already received all the quotes with recommendations from UCSM, the builder received a cheque for £160 which UCSM had recovered from the utilities as compensation for underperformance hence, our service cost this new builder just £50.



Can I claim or not?

A local home owner was doing some redevelopment work on his property which required his electrical service to be relocated. He attempted to agree this with the local Regional Electricity Company (REC) but after several weeks of not being able to obtain any satisfaction he approached UCSM for help.
Within a matter of weeks a formal quote was obtained and step by step guidance given to the Customer on how to progress the scheme to completion.
Behind the scenes, representations were made to the REC about under performance and this was declined by the REC. The matter was later referred to EnergyWatch who in turn obtained guidance from Ofgem. Ofgem have since indicated that they feel the Customer was not treated within the standards expected and that compensation is due.
After almost 2 months of consideration the REC agreed with Ofgem and made a compensation payment



However long is this going to take?

A local builder purchased a plot of land with a view to building 2 new dwellings. Unfortunately, one disadvantage with the plot was that is had a low voltage overhead line crossing it which inevitably, for safety reasons needed to be attended to.
The builder made representations to the Regional Electricity Company (REC) over a period of 7 months with very little response and eventually turned to UCSM to see what we could do.
The day after the builder met UCSM on site a representative from the REC was dispatched to site to discuss the safety aspects, 2 days later the builder was given permission to proceed with construction work with certain safety related constraints.
19 days after UCSM met the builder on site, he had the formal quotes from the REC for both the diversion of the overhead line and the new supplies to the dwellings.
UCSM continued its efforts after the job was complete and managed to recover a 25% refund for the Customer.



The job is too awkward for us!

Whilst handling the installation of new water supplies in a busy urban area the local water company made a mistake and tried it's upmost to pursued the Customer to re-do all the work he had already done for the new water services. We stepped in and argued the point such that after "detailed consideration" within the water company, they agreed and effectively maintained their committment to provide the service they had agreed too.
Unsightly overhead lines.

A local supplier of landscape products relocated his shop and office to a derelict petrol station which had the added benefit of unsightly overhead lines crossing the site.
He approached UCSM to see what we could do for him about removing the overhead lines and was pleasantly surprises when we said we could arranged this without him having to pay for the line to be diverted.
The local Regional Electricity Company have agreed a plan for removing the equipment and are currently negotiating with other landowners to relocate it at no costs to our Customer.



For each new water supply, it’s expensive.

A builder approached UCSM to see what we could do on a project he had to convert an existing house into flats. One of his main concerns was the availability of water services and the fact that he was reluctant to incur the large expense likely in bring the water services into the rear of the property.
Upon viewing the arrangements on site, suggestions were put forward and accepted which meant that he was able to avoid any excavations at the rear of the property and apply for one less water service than he expected, saving money on both counts.



When is an appointment not an appointment (550)

Much of what we do is arrange dates and times for utility companies to visits sites to attend for alterations of their equipment or installing new. We also arrange for suppliers to do the same (these are the people who arrange the metering on a site and issues bills for consumption).
On one particular site we arranged for one of the big six suppliers to attend a site to remove CTO metering, CTO stands for Current Transformer Operated – effectively metering for larger size electricity Customers. We made it very clear that the metering to be removed was CTO and indeed, this backed up the suppliers own records which would also have confirmed this.
On the day of the appointment, nothing happened and upon checking we were advised the guy sent to site didn’t have the right equipment to remove the meter.
Now, in our eyes this is a clear failure of an appointment. For this reason we asked the supplier for a failed appointment payment which they refused.
We continued to ask for this failed appointment payment and were continually advised it was not a failed appointment as someone did attend but because they didn’t have the right tools to be able to complete the works – but the appointment did take place! Our point in response was along the lines of a person asking for a plumber to visit to repair a leak and then leaving as he didn’t have the right tools – surely a plumber knowing the task in hand and being a professional would have access to the tools and equipment required to complete the task.
The going back and forth went on for months and the supplier would not budge.
We eventually asked Ofgem – the energy regulator to rule on the matter via a determination and their response was staggering – it was that they were not prepared to. We tried multiple ways to convince Ofgem it was in the best interest of Customers to rule on the matter and this got us (and the Customer) nowhere so on this occasion, the Customer lost out and was left un-supported by the industry.

The story doesn’t end there!

About a year afterwards we became involved in a working group to review changes to national regulations in relation to The Electricity and Gas (Standards of Performance) (Suppliers) Regulations 2015, and our view as backed by evidence of this case were transcribed in the regulations going forward.
Ironically, some three years later the supplier involved was subject to an investigation by Ofgem in regard failed appointments and was instructed to compensate £1.1m to Customers for missed appointments! We asked if our original matter could be reviewed and was advised no!



Building Network Operator (BNO) systems

We will not go through the history of how these systems came into being here but what we can say is we feel it was a shock to the industry which had for many years had a stable and consistent approach and now had what many say is a strange approach to wiring “before the meter”. Indeed, we would go even further and suggest this will bring about problems in the future.
Going back to the introduction of BNO systems and the impact on Customer service.
We witnessed a time when across the South of England Customers were getting confused over an approach that had previously been relatively consistent with one DNO insisting on BNO systems on every installation whereas a neighbouring DNO taking the opposite approach! This we feel cuts directly across some of the fundamental principles of giving choice to Customers and allowing market forces to rule.
We even had one DNO insist that meters in buildings of multiple occupancy be located in or at each dwelling supplied by cables installed by themselves and then apparently overnight offer central meter position suggesting this change was as a result of Customer consultation – even though we had been on every consultation event and it had never been mentioned!



Current supply arrangements (1183)

We have one Customer who currently takes a high voltage supply come across a strange issue. The Customer asked the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) for a minor variation in the supply arrangements and the response from the DNO was that the Customers current supply arrangement could not now continue. To clarify the reader, the Customer had a quick acting sequence scheme (often referred to as a “flip flop” scheme) whereby if his supply failed on one incoming supply, he was automatically and within seconds transferred to another supply – a scheme common with important sites such as hospitals etc.
The impact of this request from the DNO was a significant capital expense to make alternative arrangements. This was when UCSM become involved and squeezed the DNO into honouring the agreed and long standing supply agreement which they did.



Be careful with advise (1288)

We had a Client who approached us in a little bit of a panic. The history is that he had almost completed the build of a number of blocks of apartments and had been advised that by purchasing and installing the very same cable that the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) uses he could save both time and money in doing so.
The reason the Client approached us is because the DNO refused to even entertain using the cable the Client had installed and insisted on installing their own and charging accordingly.
On this occasion we had little option to paint what we feel as a grim option to accept they had been given bad advice and to accept costs from DNO.



Is the capacity available or not? (1251)

We had an approach from a Customer in some level of distress having applied to a DNO for a 25kVA supply and being told it may require a new substation costing many thousands of pounds.
We made a separate application to the DNO for the Customer and was again told a capacity of 25kVA was not available.
At first we were told such a capacity was not available, then that a capacity of 20kVA was available and then, when we challenged to DNO concerned it transpired the requested capacity of 25kVA was indeed available!
It is with a level of sadness that whilst the Customer eventually got what he wanted, it took so much hard work from a Customer perspective.



How can such a simple scheme go so wrong? (1103)

We had a scheme in a built up area for two new domestic supplies for a pair of semi-detached houses being built – all very straightforward in the face of it – that is until the DNO requests four site visits prior to any works taking place, proposes to charge £1756 for two standard meter boxes and allows for double the amount of jointing of cables than is actually required.
As you would expect, we don’t allow such practises to take place and recovered the overcharge for our Customer.



More problems with appointments – this time with Water company (1222).

We had a fairly small scheme of two new dwellings in an urban area requiring new gas, electric, water and telecoms services.
On this one however the water connections simply didn’t go smoothly and the water company made six separate appointments to attend site to make the connections – and failed to turn up every time.
The connections did eventually get completed however we asked the water company to consider registering guaranteed standard failures for the six failed appointments but they refused.
After some going back and forth we took the matter to CCWater to consider and to our shock the water company said they did not consider the appointments as failures and in their eyes the person on site was not the Customer and as the appointment was for new connections then a Premise did not exist.
This left CCWater unable to move so we referred the matter to Ofwat in the hope that they are able to convince the water company of the error of their ways – we currently await an outcome.





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