Reforming the water industry
The Government has launched a national programme called Open Water that will allow non-household customers (businesses, charities and public services) to choose their water and wastewater retailer for the first time, regardless of location.
The new market will work like many other open utility markets in the UK, such as telecoms, electricity and gas.
The introduction of competition aims to drive down prices and improve customer service for consumers, whether they are the smallest charity or the largest corporation.
Having one water retailer also means companies can opt to have just one water bill, if they wish, for all of their sites/businesses wherever they are in the country.
How will this work?
Retailers will buy the physical supply of water and/or removal of wastewater services from wholesalers such as Affinity Water and other water companies. Wholesalers will continue to supply water and/or waste water services to premises in their designated supply area. The retailers will then provide these services to their non-household customers along with retail services such as billing, water meter reading and customer services.
This change is only affecting non-household customers. Household customers will continue to receive all their water services directly from their existing supplier until at least 2020 and cannot change supplier.
When will this happen?
Currently, any business with at least one site in England using 5 ML of water per year can already switch to a different retailer. From April 2017 all eligible non-household customers in England will be able to buy their water and waste water from a retailer of their choice. This means that across the industry around 1.2 million non-household customers could switch retailer from next April.
To prepare for April 2017, the national programme is launching a Shadow Market on 3 October 2016. This is like a dress rehearsal and where possible, it will operate in the same way as the live market. It gives all wholesalers and retailers six months to test that their people, processes and systems are ready for the live market and it will demonstrate to the regulator that we’re compliant with the rules.