A new way to make sure South East Water customers are paying the correct charge for their tap water has been launched in partnership with a council in Kent.
The project involves Maidstone Borough Council sharing data with South East Water to identify householders on low income who are eligible for a social tariff. This tariff ensures their water and sewerage bill is capped.
It works by matching data available to the local authority with account details held by South East Water - the company which supplies 2.2 million customers across its region covering parts of Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire.
The data share was made possible by the Digital Economy Act 2017 which allows personal information to be shared across organisations with the aim to help consumers who may be struggling with personal finances.
It means customers will be automatically transferred to the social tariff without a need to apply.
South East Water’s Customer Services Director Tanya Sephton said: “We believe we are the first water company to use the legislation with a council to help identify our customers who may need a helping hand with their water bill.
“It means our customers will get the assistance they need without delay or having to seek that help directly.
“We have worked with councils and Third Sector organisations such as Citizens’ Advice for many years to encourage those eligible to come forward.
“However, we cannot assume all our customers on a low income seek support and advice, so this system will make sure those who meet the criteria are on the correct tariff.
“This is a long-term project and we are now looking to other local authorities for partnership working in this way.”
Maidstone Borough Council Leader, Cllr David Burton said the initiative was a welcome new way to help those most in need.
Cllr Burton said: “The past year and half has seen some very challenging times for many people across our borough and particularly for many low-income residents.
“Some people may just about be managing or struggling with their finances or worrying about paying their bills and may not realise they are eligible for this tariff which could make such a difference to them.
“MBC has welcomed the opportunity to work with South East Water to help and support those most in need and bring down the cost of their essential services.”