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Call for New Protections for District Heating Consumers

The Consumer Futures Unit of Citizens Advice Scotland is today calling for greater protection for consumers in Scotland who use ‘district heating’ schemes. 

District and communal heating schemes supply heat and hot water, generated in a central location, to a number of residences. This may take the form of a boiler serving a number of residences within an individual building - such as a tower block, or several buildings connected to a larger network.

At present, district heating is not regulated in Scotland, so consumers do not benefit from the same level of consumer protections as those who rely on gas or electricity to heat their homes. While the district heating market is currently small, it is expected that it will expand significantly in coming years.

CAS’s Consumer Futures Unit (CFU) is today publishing a new report on the issue, ‘Different Rules for Different Fuels’ (attached). The key findings include:

  • There is a clear need for greater consumer protection measures for district heat consumers in Scotland.
  • The Scottish Government could introduce statutory consumer protection measures through a licence for the supply of district heat. These include measures around billing, metering, standards of service, access to redress and pricing.
  • There was wide support – from both suppliers and other stakeholders – for greater consumer protection measures, including regulation.

The report recommends that the Scottish Government consider:

  • Establishing a Scotland-wide body with responsibility for the regulation of the district heating market.
  • Providing support for suppliers to ensure they are able to meet regulatory standards and consumer expectations.
  • Investigating what mechanisms are available to introduce price controls for district heating systems.
  • Introducing a statutory licence for district heating suppliers. This should include compulsory consumer protection measures as well as minimum technical standards to ensure efficient operation.

CFU Energy spokesman Craig Salter said:

“The findings of this report have been illuminating, and while it shows us that there are many examples of good practice from existing district heating suppliers, there is a clear need for greater and more consistent consumer protection for those using district heating.

“District heating has the potential to play an important and positive role in eliminating fuel poverty, but in order for this to happen, consistent consumer protections must be in place.

“We hope that the findings of this project, and the recommendations that have come out of it, will help to ensure that an expansion in the use of district heating in Scotland has the interests of those using it at its heart, and will help to allow it to play a meaningful and pro-active role in alleviating fuel poverty.”

The full report is available, along with a 2-page summary document.