Competition law in the water sector

On 21 November, representatives from the incumbent water companies, as well as current and future retailers, met at the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) London offices. The event was organised to support Ofwat’s consultation on its updated guidance on our approach to competition law cases. The consultation will run until 20 January 2017 and we welcome all of your views on our proposed approach.

Cathryn Ross, Ofwat’s Chief Executive opened the event by setting out the context into which this refreshed guidance will be introduced as the sector goes through a period of significant change, from our new approach in the 2014 price review to the opening of the business retail market in April next year and beyond.

The delegates heard presentations from a range of speakers including:

Delegates also had the opportunity to pose questions to a panel of experts including Rachel Merelie and Ann Pope from the CMA, Adrian Majumdar, Partner at RBB Economics, as well as Jenny Block and Richard Khaldi from Ofwat. The panel were quizzed on the likely causes of Competition Act breaches, as well as the range of tools available to both Ofwat and the sector to address potential issues now and as we move toward new markets in the sector.

One of the key messages from the panel was that relationships between companies may have to change as we approach future markets. Culturally conversations that may have been acceptable beforehand, may be less acceptable in competitive markets.

Our experts agreed that evolution toward more competitive markets, and being on the right side of competition law, is not just a question of making a few structural changes and ticking the right boxes, it will require a cultural change in attitude and approach from the companies to ensure that the transition is successful.

“Compliance with competition law is the responsibility of each company and its Board and applies to the actions of all of a company’s employees and contractors.”

Richard Khaldi

If you would like further information about this event or how to respond to Ofwat’s consultation on its revised guidance on our approach to competition, please contact [email protected].