It’s official the English and Welsh water retail market is opening up to competition in 2017.

Author:  Graham Mann, Water Audit Expert.

The water act gains Royal Assent, this new law will have a major impact on the water industry, businesses, the public sector and charities will be given an option to switch water supplier from 2017.

The new water act will bring a great many benefits: –

* Increasing competition and encourage new entrants into the water market which will drive down water costs, businesses will be able to save money on the water and sewerage costs.

* Join up in a national water network making it easier for the water and waste water companies to buy and sell water from each other.

* Establishing a cross -border connection with Scotland.

* Improving the regulations relating to merger of water and sewerage companies.

* Enabling owners of small scale water storage to sell excess water into the public supply.

* Enabling government to set the level to which a water and sewerage company needs to make plans for severe water shortages.

My view is there are many problems that still need resolving in the Scottish Water retail market, there are at present 14 water retail licenced providers all fighting to secure water retail business from the incumbent supplier Business Stream.

All in all good news for customers you may think? Not so in our experience, here at H²O Building Services we have been dealing with new water retail licensed providers switching water suppliers for our customers in Scotland  where for over 4 years now customers could switch water supplier for a better deal. In some instances we have managed to secure a better deal in terms of the cost for water and waste water services, however issuing the correct water bills has been a  problem for some. Indeed account queries in areas such as requests for reduced charges going forwards and refunds due to historical billing errors have quite frankly been poor.  This is not however only in the Scottish water market it is across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales water companies with applications to reduce charges in various elements that make up the total water bill taking 3 months and averaging 2 months to send a refund cheque.

The frightening aspect to this is that the refunds are very substantial numbers with some water companies attitudes being “well you have paid the bills all this time” or “customers should check their bills before paying” attitudes to customers will have to change. So far all we see is water companies giving customers a good story about customer focus, discounts and service when the reality is much different with compensation for poor delivery never offered.

There is an amazing opportunity for water companies to rise to the challenges, the water company that truly strives for excellence will shine through and secure more customers when the English and Welsh markets open in 2017.

Meanwhile our advice is simple before switching water suppliers consult the water cost reduction experts.

Useful links: – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Water retail market opens up in England and Wales

Review of Ofwat and consumer representation in the water sector

Cave review: Competition and innovation in water markets.