Becoming a retailer

From April 2017, 1.2 million eligible business, charity and public sector customers in England can choose their water and wastewater retailer – joining over 130,000 business customers in Scotland that are already able to switch.

These retailers hold a water supply and sewerage licence (WSSL) granted by Ofwat. Here is a full list of WSSL holders.

Water supply and sewerage licensees have a licence from us to supply eligible business, charity and public sector customers mainly in England with retail services. As part of the licence application process we make sure that you have the financial, technical and managerial resources you need to supply services.

About water supply and sewerage licences

A WSSL allows you to use an appointed water company’s supply system to supply water and provide wastewater removal services to eligible customers.

Types of licence

Prospective licensees can apply for the following WSSL:

  • Retail authorisation (water): This is a water supply licence that authorises the holder to use the supply system of an appointed water company whose area is wholly or mainly in England to supply the eligible premises of its customers, persons associated with the licensee, or the licensee itself.
  • Restricted retail authorisation: This is a water supply licence that authorises the holder to use the supply system of an appointed water company whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales to supply the eligible premises of its customers only.
  • Retail authorisation (sewerage): This is a sewerage licence that authorises the holder to use the sewerage system of an appointed sewerage company whose area is wholly or mainly in England for the purpose of enabling the licensee to provide sewerage services in respect of the eligible premises of its customers, persons associated with the licensee, or the licensee itself.
  • Wholesale authorisation: This authorises the holder to introduce water into the public water networks of water undertakers whose areas are wholly or mainly in England in order to supply the licensee’s own customers if their non-household premises consume at least 5 megalitres of water a year.
  • Supplementary authorisation: This licence authorises the holder to introduce water into the public water networks of water undertakers whose areas are wholly or mainly in Wales in order to supply the licensee’s own customers if their non-household premises consume at least 50 megalitres of water a year.
  • Retail restricted to self-supply (water and/or sewerage) authorisation: This is a licence that authorises the holder to supply their own sites and those of persons associated with them, but would not allow them to become a retailer for any other sites. Find more information of how to apply for a self-supply licence here.

Standard licence conditions

The standard conditions for water supply and sewerage licences were determined on 17 March 2016 by the Secretary of State, under sections 17H(1) and 17HA(1) of the Water Industry Act 1991.

Monitoring

We have a legal duty to monitor licensed suppliers’ compliance with their legal duties and licence conditions. Our monitoring activities will be proportionate, accountable, consistent, transparent and targeted only at cases in which action is needed.

How to become a WSSL holder

Anyone can apply for a WSSL with a retail or restricted retail authorisation, as long as they can expressly demonstrate that they meet the requirements as explained in our guidance.

All retailers who wish to participate in the retail market for business customers must hold a water supply and sewerage licence(s) (WSSL) with a retail authorisation.

Licence fee

The WSSL licence fee is £5,250 per application.

The application fee reflects the costs incurred by Ofwat to undertake the necessary assessments and run the associated public consultation.

Application process

The application for process for a WSSL typically takes about 60 days. This includes a 20 working day consultation from the time an application is first received and a 40 working day assessment period conducted by Ofwat. The application process may exceed this timescale in some instances.

WSSL application process flow diagram
Water supply and sewerage licence application process.

Market entry accession certification

Ofwat is unable to grant a licence until the Market Operator confirms that an applicant has passed Market Entry Accession Certification (MEAC).

Joint applications

Applicants can also make a joint application for a licence in England and/or Wales and Scotland.

Applicants must complete the application form and submit this and the required applications to Ofwat. We will then process your application for a licence in England and/or Wales, and send on your application to the Water Industry Commission Scotland (WICS).

Similarly, applicants may make a joint application to the WICS who will send this to Ofwat.

Other parties involved in the process

In addition to Ofwat and the Market Operator there are three other parties involved in granting the WSSL licences:

Application form and guidance

To apply for a WSSL, please refer to our application guidance in the first instance. You can then download an application form and return to us once completed.

We will keep a public register of WSSLs and publish the licences on the website, as we do for our current licences.