EWOV’s independence from industry is assured through its governance structure and two levels of administration—the Board and the Ombudsman. The EWOV Board has an independent Chair who must not be associated with any director or any company participating in the scheme. In addition, the Board must have an equal number of industry and consumer directors. The Ombudsman, who is appointed by the Board, must not be associated with any company participating in the scheme.
While EWOV is funded through payments made by the electricity, gas and water companies, our funding source has no effect on our independence. On the contrary, it provides a financial incentive for companies to reduce the number of complaints that come to us—by resolving complaints within their own internal dispute resolution processes. This is because we charge each company for the cases lodged against it.
Clearly, the primary responsibility for responding to customer concerns rests with the energy and water companies, not us. But, dispute resolution is our core function and our complaint handling role is a unique source of independent research about the energy and water customer experience. This puts us in a good position to help companies improve their customer service—to prevent complaints in the first place and deliver better internal dispute resolution to their customers when complaints do arise.
Through a regular e-newsletter, extranet and annual scheme participant conference, we share our experience with energy and water companies, to help drive customer service improvements. We also run complaint handling training for energy and water companies.
Further, because we consider good industry practice and fairness, we have the opportunity to consider fair and reasonable outcomes and raise the standards of industry participants. An example of this is the influence EWOV has had on how electricity, gas and water companies deal with customers in financial hardship.