31 March 2022
Ofwat has confirmed that Thames Water will change how it installs smart meters and will make the data from them available to retailers for free. This follows on from a consultation on the proposals in February. Ofwat has accepted these and other formal commitments from Thames Water to address concerns over the company’s approach to smart metering and water usage data.
Monopoly providers, such as Thames Water, have a responsibility to ensure that their actions do not harm competition in active markets. Ofwat opened the investigation because it was concerned Thames Water unfairly removed or limited access to water usage data used by retailers and third parties – key information for detecting leaks, ensuring water efficiency and the accuracy of bills.
Throughout the investigation Ofwat has challenged Thames Water to address these concerns and, more generally, the way in which it considers how its conduct will affect its customers. The new commitments from Thames Water include more details on:
- how it will meet customer requests for loggable meters;
- the removal of subscription charges for data services, and;
- how it will provide compensation where it had lost or damaged others’ logging equipment when replacing meters.
The commitments Thames Water has offered will help to ensure that their actions do not harm competition. It will give retailers and third-party providers more confidence that they will be able to access the water usage data they require on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms so that they can offer improved services to their customers.
Emma Kelso, Senior Director of Markets and Enforcement, said:
“We opened this investigation because we were concerned that Thames Water’s smart metering policy was disadvantaging customers. The package of commitments Thames Water has now put forward has addressed our concerns and will help rebuild trust with customers and other parties who rely on its services.
“Smart meters can provide many benefits and as other companies start to roll out smart metering programmes there will be some helpful lessons to draw from this investigation.”
Thames Water will have to report regularly to Ofwat on its implementation of the commitments agreed through this investigation. Accepting the commitments made by Thames Water, including the amendments from the consultation, has resulted in the closure of the investigation without a finding that Thames Water has broken competition law.
Notes to editors
- We consulted on the commitments proposed by Thames Water in May 2021 and February 2022
- Decision document
- In June 2019, Ofwat opened an investigation using its powers under the Competition Act 1998 (CA98) into the approach to smart metering adopted by Thames Water Utilities Limited (Thames Water) and the effect that this was having on third parties’ access to water consumption data.
- Ofwat had concerns that Thames Water was breaching the Chapter II prohibition in the CA98, which prohibits conduct on the part of one or more undertakings which amounts to the abuse of a dominant position in a market within the United Kingdom.
- Water consumption data is an essential input into some of the value-added services that retailers and third-party providers offer to non-household customers, including leakage detection, water efficiency and bill checking services.
- Under section 31A of the Competition Act 1998, Ofwat may accept commitments from a company under investigation for the purpose of addressing our competition concerns. Where we decide to accept commitments, we are required to close our investigation without making a decision as to whether the company under investigation has infringed the Competition Act (section 31B).
- Acceptance of the commitments does not prevent us from taking any action in relation to competition concerns which are not addressed by the commitments. Nor are we prevented from continuing our investigation, making an infringement decision, or giving a direction in circumstances where we have reasonable grounds for:
- believing that there had been a material change of circumstances since the commitments were accepted;
- suspecting that a company had failed to adhere to one or more of the terms of the commitments; or
- suspecting that information which led us to accept the commitments was incomplete, false or misleading.