1.In its letter to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Committee requested a memorandum on the following points:
1) In relation to regulation 5(2) (new paragraph (2B)), explain—
(a) the intended meanings of being “medically dependent on water for bathing” and “water dependent for medical reasons” (and the intended difference between the two expressions); and
(b) how it is intended that persons falling within these categories will be identified for the purposes of the provision and how effect is given to that intention.
(2) In relation to regulation 10 of the Principal Regulations, as amended by regulation 6, explain what is added by new paragraph (3A) (inserted by regulation 6(6)) that is not already achieved by paragraphs (4) (as amended by regulation 6(7)) and (5).
2.With respect to points (1)(a) and (b), the terms “medically dependent on water for bathing” and “water dependent for medical reasons” are intended to capture vulnerable consumers who have a dependency on water and should therefore be eligible under these provisions. These terms reflect categories of “needs codes” (specifically, needs codes 23 and 37) used in the energy industry for the Priority Services Register, which is a list of vulnerable consumers with their corresponding specific needs marked as needs codes. This register is maintained by gas supply companies as part of their gas supply licence obligations, and is shared with gas transporters through established data sharing protocols within the industry. The needs codes are developed and maintained by industry and are standard across the gas, electric and water markets.
3.Customers may register for priority services if they have ongoing health conditions or meet certain vulnerability criteria. The needs codes that are relevant to the customer are specified at the time of registration, and may be updated from time to time.
4.When carrying out, or planning to carry out, works at customers’ premises, gas transporters refer to the Priority Services Register to assess customer needs in relation to any services they may require, including the provision of services to meet obligations under the Gas (Standards of Performance) Regulations 2005 (as amended), in the event that the works result in an interruption to customers’ gas supply.
5.The term “medically dependent on water for bathing” is intended to capture customers who, due to a medical condition, require hot water to bathe every day or multiple times a day. Energy industry bodies have developed guidance for the needs codes which includes a non-exhaustive list of conditions that may be captured under this category, and this includes: epidermolysis bullosa simplex, eczema and dermatitis, disability, and degenerative disease.
6.The term “water dependent for medical reasons” is intended to capture those customers who for medical reasons need access to water for purposes other than for bathing. Industry guidance lists the following as examples of conditions that may come under this category: desquamating conditions (flaky skin loss), weeping skin disease (eczema, psoriasis, varicose ulceration), catheter usage, abdominal stoma, Chron’s disease, colostomy, urostomy, and incontinence.
7.While there may be some overlap between the two categories, there may be instances where a customer is only registered under one of these, and so we considered it necessary to include both terms.
8.As the expressions “medically dependent on water for bathing” and “water dependent for medical reasons” reflect the needs codes categories in the Priority Services Register, these terms are readily understood by gas transporters for the purposes of fulfilling their obligations under the Gas (Standards of Performance) Regulations 2005 (as amended).
9.With respect to point (2), regulation 10(3A) (as amended) places the obligation on the gas transporter to ensure the quotations they provide are “accurate” (as defined in the Regulations) and, where this has not been the case, to refund the customer any overcharge that has been paid. Paragraph (3A) places the obligation on the gas transporter to provide a refund regardless of whether any challenge has been received in accordance with the published accuracy scheme.
10.Regulation 10(4) (as amended) requires that in the event that a customer challenges a quotation provided by a gas transporter (whether or not payment has been made by the customer pursuant to the quotation) under the published accuracy scheme and is successful, the quotation will be deemed invalid and the relevant obligations under regulation 10(3)(a) and 10(3)(b) and associated prescribed periods would then reapply in relation to the provision of the new quotation by the gas transporter.
11.Regulation 10(5) states that the gas transporter will remain liable to provide a refund to the customer in the event that the quote is deemed invalid by regulation 10(4).
12.Regulation 10(3A) (as amended) reinstates the language of the old regulation 10(3)(c) and 10(3)(ii). The new regulation 10(3A) was inserted as part of the structural drafting changes to regulation 10 rather than introducing substantively new requirements.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
13 May 2021
1 The list of needs codes is available on this website: under a document entitled “Priority Services Category” (item reference number: J1699). This can be found through the “view items” link from the main page. In that document, needs code 23 is listed as “medically: dependent showering/bathing”, and needs code 37 is “water dependent”.
2 The obligation to establish and maintain a Priority Services Register is set out in Condition 26 (Priority Services Register) of the Standard Conditions of Gas Supply Licence, which is available on Ofgem’s website: .