On the Case – December 2016 – Issue 7

Welcome to the December 2016 edition of On the Case, which looks at issues affecting your water and wastewater services, and how we protect you.

Portland Bill lighthouse
Portland Bill lighthouse © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Want to know how your water company compares?

Tallia22
Pigeons and girl © Tallia22

Have you ever find out more about how your water company compares to others? Well now you can through a new website called ‘Discover Water‘.

The new website has been set up by water companies, overseen by representatives from Government, regulators and customer organisations. It brings together a range of information about companies and water and wastewater services in a friendly and interactive way.

But isn’t it Ofwat’s job to check how companies are doing?

“We use the information companies publish to protect your interests. But an important part of getting companies to deliver better services is for customers and others to put pressure on them. So, use the information that companies publish and, if you are not happy with how your company compares, then tell them”, explains Andy Duff, Director at Ofwat.

So why should companies listen?

“We encourage companies to speak with and listen to their customers. And they get rewards or penalties depending on how well they do. So your views really do count”, answers Andy.

Not sure if you can trust the information your company publishes? We rate your company on the quality of the information so you and others can have confidence.

Find out more about why Discover Water is important in our blog. On twitter? Tell your water company what you think using #askyourwatercompany.

We’re getting ready for the new business market in April 2017. Are you?

Rhosyn
Beach huts © Rhosyn

We are stepping up our preparations for the opening of the new business retail market from April 2017 by launching our draft guidance for how we will use competition law to help ensure a fair market.

From April 2017 an estimated 1.2 million business, charity and public sector customers mainly in England will be able to choose their water and wastewater retailer. By shopping around, eligible customers could benefit from lower prices, better service, innovative products and services and improved water efficiency.

Speaking at the launch of our draft guidance with the sector , Philip Hand, who develops competition policy at Ofwat said:

“We want customers and others to have confidence in the new market. But we are conscious that where markets are introduced, and relationships change, this can cause tensions with competition law. Our guidance shows that we are ready to step in if necessary to protect customers if issues crop up in water. It also gives companies a useful reminder that it is their responsibility to make sure they stick to competition laws – or face the consequences”.

Tell us your views on our draft guidance by Friday 20 January 2017.

Find out more about the new market and if you are eligible at open-water.org.uk

Hot topic – If I have a dispute with a water company, can I negotiate with them even if Ofwat has opened a case?

Ben Earwicker Garrison Photography
Dominos © Ben Earwicker Garrison Photography

Yes. Where we open a case you can still negotiate a solution at any point without a formal decision from us. This happened in a case earlier this yearinvolving a dispute about the cost of a sewer requisition. Before we made our final decision in that matter, the parties settled the matter between themselves. We encourage parties to settle disputes without us getting formally involved.

News in brief

Water company working on your land? Your rights

Water companies have the power to lay, inspect, maintain and repair or alter any pipes on private land. But they must give adequate notice and consult with the affected customers before they carry out the work. Our most recent case against Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water gave all companies an important reminder that they need to communicate well with their customers. We found that the company had not adequately consulted with the customer and ordered them to pay the customer £375.

Got a complaint about a new connection to your house? What you need to know

If you are the owner or occupier of a property then you are entitled to request that a water company provides you with a connection to their water mains for a domestic supply of water. Your water company is entitled to charge you the reasonable costs of making the connection. If you cannot agree with your company on the charges and conditions for a new connection, then the Consumer Council for Water may be able to resolve your complaint quickly on an informal basis. If they are not successful then they or you can send us your complaint for a decision. You can find recent cases we have dealt with and the approach in making our decisions on our website (We’ll also be taking a closer look at our approach in the next issue).

New guidance published for applying for a licence to supply business customers from April 2017

We have published our updated guidance for companies interested in supplying business customers with retail services from April 2017. The update includes improvements we have made following feedback from potential applicants. We have also included details for customers applying for a licence to self-supply themselves retail services. If your organisation is interested in applying for a licence, you can find out more information on our website or by contacting us for an informal chat at casemanagementoffice@ofwat.gsi.gov.uk. More information about the market can also be found at open-water.org.uk.

How can Ofwat encourage monopoly companies to deliver even better services? Tell us what you think

We want to encourage monopoly companies to focus even more on delivering the things that you and other customers want from water and wastewater services (‘outcomes’). So, we are asking for your views on how we do this. It’s very important as we’ll be using it as part of our methodology for setting monopoly companies prices from 2020. You find out more about our consultation our website or by viewing this short presentation.  Don’t forget to send us your views by 31 January.

More new retailers licensed for April 2017

We have granted licenses to more retailers (water supply and sewerage licensees) wanting to offer services to business, charity and public sector customers from April 2017. Once we receive applications, we examine their plans and serve a notice that we are considering their application. This protects customers by giving anyone the opportunity to tell us if there is any reason we should not grant a retailer a licence. We also publish a final copy of each licensed retailer’s licence. You can find out more about retailers and the new market on open-water.org.uk.

Useful links

Coming up in the next issue

In the next issue we will be looking at:

  • our consultation on setting rules (‘codes’) for monopoly companies in making agreements to take on new water and wastewater infrastructure
  • how we decide if the costs that monopoly water companies charge for new water connections are reasonable

Feedback

Do you have any comments on this issue of On the Case? Send your feedback to onthecase@ofwat.gsi.gov.uk.