From April 2017, all non-household (NHH) customers (i.e. businesses, charitable organisations and public sector organisations) at eligible premises in England – some 1.2 million customers – will be able to switch their supplier of water and sewerage retail services. Retail services include meter reading, billing and handling customer queries and complaints
Background to non-household retail competition
Currently, only very heavy water users (5 million litres per year in England or 50 million litres per year in Wales) can switch water supplier. Five million litres would fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools. However, from April 2017 this usage threshold will drop to zero in England, effectively opening up competition to all NHH customers. The Welsh Government has decided to keep a 50 million litre threshold in Wales. In Scotland, NHH customers have been able to choose their retailer since 2008. Around 30% of customers have switched and around 50% have negotiated with their current retailer.
Who will be operating in the non-household retail market?
New retail suppliers are being split from water and sewerage companies that you already know. Some retailers operating in Scotland have sought licences to operate in England. It is also possible that entirely new retailers including those operating in the energy and telecoms sectors could offer retail services. Retailers will compete with each other to offer customers a better price and service. Many larger customers expect to make a saving by consolidating billing across multiple sites. Other customers would value added-value services like water efficiency checks to root out leakage or more frequent meter reading to get better control over their usage.
The Consumer Council for Water is the independent consumer body for the water industry in England and Wales. To find out more, visit their website at www.ccwater.org.uk/business-customers.