Frequently Asked Questions
From April 2017 most businesses and organisations in England will be able to choose which company will supply their retail water services. Eligible businesses, charities and public sector customers will no longer be restricted to buying retail water services from their regional water company. Instead, they will be free to choose their water retailer.
Legislation currently prevents customers who are categorised as “household” from switching their water and sewerage retailer. Other customers are referred to as ”non-household” and can switch supplier if they are deemed to be eligible. This covers over one million businesses, charities and public sector organisations in England – be that a corner shop, car wash, office block, factory or supermarket – who will be able to find the best water deal that works for them.
The UK Government has confirmed that the competitive water retail market for business, charities and public sector customers in England will open as planned on 1 April 2017. Will the household market open? A: The UK Government published “A Better Deal” its plan to boost competition in different markets and bring about lower bills for firms and families. Ofwat were asked to provide an assessment by summer 2016 of the costs and benefits of extending retail competition to household customers. Ofwat has delivered its assessment and the decision on whether to extend competition is awaited from the Government.
Licensed regional water companies, or wholesalers, will sell wholesale water services – the physical supply of water and the removal of wastewater – to licensed retailers. The retailers can then offerthese water services with other services and compete for customers. Customers will be free to choose their retailer by looking at who has the best deal for them. Regional water companies will continue to supply your water, treat your wastewater and maintain the water and wastewater pipe networks.
Yes. The market is regulated by Ofwat. Ofwat are the economic regulator for the water industry in England and Wales.. All retailers in the market have to apply to Ofwat for a new national licence, the water supply and sewerage license (WSSL), which they need to have in order to operate in the new retail water market. This helps makes sure that the market is fair for all.
We do not hold information about which customer is registered with which supplier. However, you can find this information out in two ways. You can find out who your current supplier is by checking your most recent water bill. If you can’t find a bill, or have recently moved to new business premises, contact your regional water company. You can find details of the regional water companies on the Ofwat website.
All eligible non-household customers served by suppliers based wholly or mainly in England will be able to switch their retailer. Ofwat has published eligibility and supplementary guidance to assist those who are unsure whether their premises are eligible to switch. See: http://www.ofwat.gov.uk/publication/supplementary-guidance-whether-non-household-customers-england-wales-eligible-switch-retailer/ Ofwat has also developed an eligibility checker for customers on its Open Water website. See: http://www.open-water.org.uk/for-customers/eligibility-guide/
Yes the market has been open since 2008, and eligible businesses, charities and public sector organisations are able to switch their water and sewerage retailer to a Licensed Provider. A list of retailers licensed to operate in the Scottish market can be found on the Scotland on Tap website. See: http://www.scotlandontap.gov.uk/
Businesses, charities and public sector customers who are supplied by a water company based wholly or mainly in Wales (by geographic size), will not be able to change their retailer unless they use more than 50 million litres of water per year. This is because the Welsh Government has decided to adopt a different approach to England, and Welsh legislation stipulates that only those non-household businesses which use in excess of 50 million litres per year can move away from their Welsh water company.
If your business operates in both Scotland and England, you will, of course, be able to switch retailers in England, just like you currently can in Scotland. In addition, some retailers might decide to operate in both countries, in which case you could choose to have a single retailer for all your sites across England and Scotland, instead of having to deal with a number of separate retailers.
When the market opens, customers will be able to choose to have one retailer for their water supply and another for sewerage services, or just have one for both.
To do this you need to contact the retailers you are interested in directly by using our Customer Enquiry Form to ask one or more retailers to get in touch with you.
What benefits can I expect if I switch retailer? A: A number of existing regional water companies have decided to transfer their non-household customers to a new company. If you are an eligible non-household customer you can choose to shop around for a new retailer or stay with the new company you have been transferred to. Lower bills, reduced charges or cheaper prices could be a benefit of the competitive water market for some customers. Bundled services, tailored packages and consolidated bills are just some of the offers retailers can put together in the retail water market. Helping business customers use water more efficiently and sustainably is one of the expected benefits of the new water market. Ask your chosen or prospective water retailer for information and advice about how your business could reduce its water usage.
You need to contact the retailers you are interested in directly. You can use our Customer Enquiry Form to ask one or more retailers to get in touch with you.
You can find a selection of retailers on this website. A list of all companies currently licenced by Ofwat can be found on Ofwat’s website. See: http://www.ofwat.gov.uk/regulated-companies/licences/#wssl
There is no overall standard determining the length of time a switch will take, but as a normal rule it should be completed within a month’s duration after completing an agreement with a retailer.
You should always speak with your retailer as soon as you believe there is a problem with your bill. If you are on metered charges then you should try and take a meter reading first before contacting your retailer.
Most non-household premises have had a meter installed, but if this is not the case for you, you should contact your existing or planned new retailer to request one.
Continuity of water supply may be critical to keeping your organisation operational and many customers will benefit from a ‘Water Supply Contingency Plan’. You should ask your chosen supplier about their emergency provision and whether they offer a contingency service. If your retailer can’t provide these or recommend an approved supplier, you can contact an independent specialist like www.water-direct.co.uk who can deliver temporary planned and emergency water services.
SPID stands for Supply Point Identification and will be needed by your new retailer to switch your retail services. Your SPID can be found on your latest water bill. It will be 8 digits long. You may have separate SPIDs for your water and your wastewater.
Customers can use a broker or third party intermediary (TPI), such as a comparison website, to help them shop around. It is important to understand that the best deal may not be found with the help of a broker or TPI. Some retailers may only offer their best deals to customers directly. TPIs also charge for providing their service to retailers or customers.
Brokers and other third party intermediaries are not currently licensed or directly regulated by Ofwat, but are encouraged to abide by an Ofwat Code of Conduct.
You should contact the retailer you have selected in the first instance who should take action on your behalf. All licensed retailers are subject to Ofwat’s licence conditions, which include the requirement to comply with their Customer Protection Code of Practice. See: http://www.ofwat.gov.uk/customer-protection-final-code-practice-non-household-retailers/
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) represents water and sewerage consumers in England and Wales. CC Water aims to provide a strong national voice for consumers and is expected to monitor customers’ experience of the new market. They will also take up consumers’ complaints if they have tried and failed to resolve issues with their water companies.
We take the issue of data security very seriously, and operate according to ISO 27001 standards; we will only supply your data to the companies you have requested should contact you, and will not supply this data to third parties.
A good additional source of information on the new water market can be found on the Open Water website. See: http://www.open-water.org.uk/about-open-water/
There is no set standard for receiving a reply, but your request will be forwarded to your chosen retailers as soon as possible.