Equifax UK, the business and consumer insights expert, has partnered with leading water company, United Utilities, providing a first-of-its-kind real time income verification tool to streamline eligibility for reduced-rate social tariffs.
Powered by Open Banking, and enabled via customer consent using app-to-app authentication, the product allows United Utilities’ customers to seamlessly check they meet the thresholds for social tariffs while on the phone to a customer representative. The tool automatically detects levels of income and evidence of benefit payments by accessing the applicant’s bank account data and sharing these insights with United Utilities in real-time, so the whole process can be approved during the call.
This bypasses the need for lengthy manual processes involving paper documentation and reduces back and forth communications between United Utilities and its customers, providing a more seamless user experience. The digital platform is also bolstered by leading Equifax anti-fraud protection, enabling United Utilities to build a more secure, efficient and quicker end-to-end process.
Jayadeep Nair, Chief Product & Marketing Officer at Equifax UK, said: “This unique product is a prime example of how Open Banking technology can be harnessed for societal good. The pandemic has disproportionately affected people in receipt of benefits or with low incomes, and any relief they can receive at this time will go a long way. Our automated solution brings more order, speed and precision to applying for social tariffs, and that’s good news for both United Utilities and their end customers.”
Michelle Atkinson, Head of Income at United Utilities, said: “We’re proud to be the first water company in the UK to roll out an Open Banking solution for social tariff applications. This solution helps us to more accurately determine the most appropriate level of financial support for our customers and fast-track them onto much reduced tariffs, while successfully modernising our income verification processes at the same time.”
According to OFWAT* as many as three million people in the UK struggle to pay their water bills. Water companies, including United Utilities, are required to ensure a minimum 7% of households are offered a social tariff, and work to identify potentially financially vulnerable customers who meet this criteria.
United Utilities is the only water company to gain regulatory approval to increase the scale and scope of its social tariff. The company has supported an additional 45,000 customers who were furloughed, claiming SEISS or are now unemployed, reducing their water bill to an affordable amount.