On the Case – September 2016 – Issue 6

Welcome to the September 2016 edition of On the Case, the regular newsletter from Ofwat, 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)

In this month’s issue we discuss the upcoming opening of the retail water market for businesses and other non-household customers in England. If you’re an eligible business, charity or public sector organisation are you ready to switch or negotiate in the new market? We also take a look at whether retail market competition will be extended to English household customers and what to do if you your water bill is incorrect.

Are you ready to choose your business supplier from April 2017?

Click the image to visit Open Water

Business and other non-household customers across England and Wales are being urged to check whether they are eligible to switch their water and wastewater retail supplier from April 2017 – with less than 200 days to go before the market opens.

From April 2017 1.2 million businesses and other non-household customers mainly in England will be able to enjoy a range of benefits from being able to choose their water and wastewater service retailer. Retail services include things like meter reading, billing and customer services.

To find out more and begin to shop around, you can now visit a new official website, www.open-water.org.uk. Run by Ofwat, the UK Government and Market Operator Services Limited, the website is there to give you independent information about the market and help you understand whether your business may be eligible to switch.

Want more advice?

You can also speak to the Consumer Council for Water – the representative of water customers in England and Wales – or your existing supplier. Are you a trade body or procurement group? Talk to us to help your members get prepared.

 

Could English residential customers benefit from being allowed to switch their water supplier?

Should choice be extended to water?
© kirstiscott

English residential customers could benefit from being allowed to switch their water supplier for their homes – our advice to the UK Government shows.

Back in November last year the UK Government asked us to work out the costs and benefits of allowing residential customers to choose their water and wastewater retailer. Retail services include things like meter reading, billing and customer services.

We asked people what they thought of our emerging findings over the summer, including asking customers directly through a forum on MoneySavingExpert.com. And we have now sent our final report on extending retail competition to residential customers to the UK Government.

So what happens next?

Well, it is now for the UK Government to decide on whether to extend competition in England to the household market. That would involve them applying for a change in the law through the UK Parliament. And the UK Parliament would need to approve that change before work to set up the retail household market could start.

But remember – if you work for a business, public sector organisation or charity in England, you may be able to choose your business’ water and wastewater retailer from April 2017. This follows a law change in 2014. Visit open-water.org.uk to find out more.

 

Hot topic – What can you do if you think your water bill is incorrect?

© Crown Copyright
© Crown Copyright

You should contact your water company to ask them to check your water bill is correct. If you have a water meter, a big increase in your bill may show you have a leak somewhere on your property that needs repairing. If you do have a leak, you should speak to your company to find out if they offer help for subsidised or free repairs – and if you can claim an allowance for the cost of water lost.

If you are still unhappy about your bill after you have contacted your company, you should ask for a senior manager at the company to review your case. If you are still unhappy after that, you may want to contact the Consumer Council for Water to get more advice.

Ofwat does not have any powers to investigate individual billing disputes.

News in brief

Interested in supplying retail services to your business and others from April 2017?

If you are interested in supplying your own business with retail services from April 2017 (called ‘self supply’) – or in becoming a retailer to other businesses, you can now apply to Ofwat for a licence.

You can find out more information about applying for a licence or by contacting us for an informal chat at [email protected]. More information about the business retail water market can be found at open-water.org.uk.

Important changes for owners of sewage pumping stations from 1 October 2016

If you own a sewage pumping station that serves more than one property, from 1 October 2016 this will become the property of your local water company. The good news is that the company will be responsible for the pumping station, including paying any maintenance costs. But you should be aware that from 1 October 2016 you may not carry out any work on the pumping station without the company’s express permission. If you have any questions, contact your local water company.

New rules proposed for charges for new connections in England

Housing and commercial property is a significant part of the UK economy. As part of the work we have been doing to encourage water companies to improve services for developers, this summer we consulted on a new set of rules on how companies in England set their prices for new connections. Each company will need to speak and listen to customers in developing their new charges in future . So make sure you tell them what you think.

Tell us your views on agreements for water and sewerage companies to adopt infrastructure

Developers can choose who installs the pipework for new developments. If this work is carried out by an independent contractor, water companies need to formally agree to this infrastructure (‘adopt’) before it becomes their responsibility. We know this is an area where there are many disputes involving developers, independent contractors and companies. And we have new powers to introduce a code on the agreements that water companies make to adopt infrastructure. Read our discussion paper and give us your views by 31 October 2016.

Got a complaint? Get it heard

If you are unhappy with your water and wastewater services, it is important you tell your water company. They may be able to fix a problem straight away – or, if you and other customers tell them what you are unhappy about, they may do better in the future. We tell companies to listen to you – so help us help them help you. If you are unhappy with your company or have a dispute with them, our easy to follow guide shows you what to do next.

Useful links

Coming up in the next issue

In the next issue we will be looking at:

  • the new companies licensed to provide water and/or sewerage (wastewater) services
  • our updated guidance on investigating anti-competitive behaviour in the water sector

Feedback

Do you have any comments on this issue of On the Case? Send your feedback to [email protected].