Protecting customers

We have a statutory duty to protect the interests of consumers. When deciding whether to grant a new appointment we will consider the likely impact on customers both of the new appointee and of the existing appointee.

At least as good as existing providers

At present most consumers are not able to switch supplier if they are unhappy with, for example, the service they receive or the price charged. This means that customers of a newly appointed water company should benefit from prices and service levels that are at least as good as those provided by the regional monopoly supplier.

When we assess your application for a new appointment we will look for evidence that, in broad terms, your customers will be no worse off than they would be as customers of the regional monopoly supplier. We will look at both the price and the levels of service you plan to offer. After considering both elements, we will decide whether your application offers an acceptable standard.

Customer service provisions

As an appointed water company you must meet the provisions of the Water Supply and Sewerage Services (Customer Service Standards) Regulations 2008. These are known as the GSS Regulations.

As part of your application you must demonstrate your understanding of obligations under the GSS Regulations. You must also explain how your systems and processes will deliver each of the standards set out in the Regulations. We will monitor compliance with these Regulations.

Codes of Practice

As an appointed water company, you will also be required to set out your customer service policies in Codes of Practice covering

  • debt
  • leakage
  • general customer service.

As part of your application, you must submit drafts of these Codes of Practice. We will assess these draft Codes against our checklists (available on request) to make sure that you have included all necessary information. We will also check them for consistency with your charges scheme.

We will compare your Codes with those provided by the regional monopoly supplier. In submitting your Codes for assessment, you must explain how your customer service policies compare with the relevant regional monopoly supplier’s Codes. You should clearly identify any areas where your policies differ particularly where what you offer could be considered to be less than that of the relevant regional monopoly supplier. This might include for example, fewer payment options or more limited leakage detection or repair schemes. You should also justify any differences.

We acknowledge that you may not propose to deliver policies and levels of service identical to the regional monopoly suppliers. Where this is the case we will decide whether these are acceptable based on your size and experience, and your explanation of why customers will be adequately served.

Charging schemes

You must submit formal charges schemes to us for approval every year. You cannot charge customers (other than those with a special agreement) until your charges scheme has been approved.

We will assess the charges you propose, and compare these with the charges of the regional monopoly supplier to decide whether customers would be financially no worse off.

Service indicators

We monitor service levels using levels of service indicators. You must set out the levels of service you propose to deliver under each indicator. You must explain how your systems and processes will deliver these proposals. This information should include:

  • billing and revenue collection
  • day-to-day asset operations
  • emergency operations.

We will assess your proposals to make sure that they offer an acceptable level of service.