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Plumbers pushing gas

ONE of WA’s largest utilities has turned retailers and plumbers into a second sales force for its product.

For the past six years AlintaGas has been using its AlintaGas-approved gas fitters and retailers to promote its main product – natural gas.

Among the 500 approved installers are 124 gas fitters that are on a special program with the utility.

Besides the mandatory gas fitting re-fresher course, those on the special program are given a sales and customer service course, paid for by AlintaGas.

They are allowed to use AlintaGas’s branding on their vehicles, stationery and advertisements, and are also on its referral system so there are benefits to them to be promoting natural gas.

AlintaGas recently took the next step in this campaign by launching HotWater Advantage, designed to support the approved installer program through the use of hotwater systems.

Through this program the approved installers can offer their customers an opportunity to replace their existing, electric, solar or liquefied petroleum gas hotwater system with a new natural gas hot water system with no upfront cost.

The utility pays the installer for the job and the customer pays for the installation through quarterly instalment on his or her AlintaGas bill over the next two years.

AlintaGas manager mass markets Sue Dixon said there were several competitors to natural gas.

Indeed, that competition has grown in the past year, with Western Power running advertisements pushing reverse cycle airconditioning as a cost-effective heating tool, which Ms Dixon said was proving a threat to AlintaGas’s business.

Solar hot water systems are also proving a major competitor, with the WA Government offering a rebate scheme for their purchase.

And from the end of next year, WA’s residential gas market will be open to full contestability.

Ms Dixon said AlintaGas had 85 per cent market penetration of the reticulated area – 75 per cent had been put in by its approved installer network.

Gas fitter David Marland said paying for the use of the Alinta logo and entering the program was one of the best advertising decisions he had ever made.

“For $300 for three years you can’t get advertising like it. The only thing better is word-of-mouth advertising, and that takes time to build up,” Mr Marland said.

Not surprisingly, he is a fervent promoter of gas appliances, particularly for home and water heating.

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