Customer protections and powers

It’s important to us that customers are protected in the business retail market. The following outlines the protections in place and the powers that customers hold.

  • All retailers will have to have a licence. To get and keep that licence they need to show us they are fit and ready to supply services.
  • We’ve imposed limits on what companies can charge customers who don’t switch or renegotiate.
  • We encourage customers to raise their concerns with their water provider, but if they are not able to resolve issues, we can investigate and make decisions on certain disputes.
  • We’ll report on the market regularly and refer it to CMA if we need to.
  • We can fine companies 10% of their turnover for a breach of licence or legal duty. Even where we don’t use that power, it is a strong incentive for companies to sort out problems quickly.
  • We can apply for a disqualification order against company directors.
  • If you are found to have underpaid for water in the past, we’ve set a limit on what companies can recover – they cannot go back more than 16 months.
  • And, of course, if customers don’t like their company or service – they can switch.
  • If a retailer goes out of business, Ofwat has arrangements which means a customer will be automatically transferred to another retailer.
  • We have introduced a Customer Protection Code of Practice which protects customers in a number of ways including:
    • your new retailer must have a valid contract with you before they request to switch you over
    • communications from retailers to customers must be in clear and plain language
    • back-billing limited to 16 months
    • retailers must issue at least one accurate bill or invoice each year – using a meter reading where there is a meter.

Extra protections for micro-businesses

In addition, we have included some extra protections for micro-businesses in our customer code of practice.

  • We have introduced a seven day cooling off period.
  • Retailers must offer specific information in writing such as details of tariffs, frequency of bills and payment methods, contract type and duration and details on any exit fees and termination notice.
  • Retailers must provide information the micro-business customer requests in writing as soon as reasonably practical.
  • We have banned automatic contract roll-over without the written consent from the micro-business customer.
  • To make the commitments customers are signing up to crystal clear, we have introduced a standard template letter for all TPIs to use.
  • Required retailers to issue any final bill to a micro-business within six weeks of the contract termination or switch date.
  • Required retailers to offer a micro-business a reasonable repayment plan for a back-bill.