Price reviews

Most water and sewerage services in England and Wales are not provided in competitive markets. This means that most people receive their water services from a licensed monopoly company and only very large business customers are able to choose their supplier.

Because competition is limited, there is a risk that these companies will not deliver services to the standards and levels their customers rely on. They may also put their own profits, including charging higher prices, above the need to provide good services. This is why they need to be regulated. And it is why Ofwat was created when the water and sewerage sectors were privatised in 1989.

One of the ways we regulate is to set the price, investment and service package that customers receive. This includes controlling prices companies can charge their customers. When we do this, we must balance consumers’ interests with the need to ensure the sectors are also able to finance the delivery of water and sewerage services. We also need to ensure sure they are able to meet their other legal obligations, including their environmental and social duties.

We currently carry out a review of these price limits every five years. We will carry out an additional review of the non-household retail price control in 2016.

Setting price limits

Our job is to protect consumers’ interests. Residential customers cannot choose their supplier, so one of the ways we do this is to decide the price and service package (‘price controls’) that monopoly water and sewerage and water only companies must deliver. These price controls affect what customers pay for their water and the level of water and sewerage services consumers should receive. So this is important and matters to everyone.

We set the wholesale price controls for water and sewage companies every five years. We are currently working on the price review for 2019 (PR19). This will set wholesale price controls for water and sewerage companies for 2020 to 2025.

We intend to consult on the way we set price controls by publishing our methodology on 11 July 2017, and set final price limits in December 2019.

When setting price control, we have a duty to:

  • make sure that each company has enough money to finance its functions
  • protect consumers’ interests.

This means that we must balance the interests of consumers with the need to make sure the sectors can finance the delivery of water and sewerage services. We also need to make sure they are able to meet their other legal obligations, including their environmental and social duties.

Further information

We will use our future price limits statement of principles to guide our price setting process.

There are two ways in which price limits can be changed between price reviews: