Back in December, the weekly newsletter highlighted the forthcoming deregulation of the water industry in England on 1 April 2017 (Scotland deregulated in 2008 and Northern Ireland & Wales are not deregulating at present).
To raise awareness of the delivery of this new market, Open Water an impartial government-backed programme jointly managed by Ofwat (Water Services Regulation Authority), Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and MOSL (Market Operator Services Limited) held a regional workshop in Bath last week.
The event outlined the options available to eligible small to medium sized businesses in England which will allow them to negotiate a new deal with their current supplier or to switch to a new water retailer. Most golf clubs should be eligible and can confirm this by utilising Open Water’s eligibility guide.
Open Water, which is backed by the Consumer Council for Water, claim that switching to a new water retailer or getting a better deal from your current supplier is completely free and straightforward, and will enable clubs to benefit from:
- Reduced bills and better value for money from retailers competing to attract and retain your business.
- Better customer service and more engagement from your water retailer.
- More innovative tailored services such as accurate billing or single billing for multiple sites or bundled utility packages.
- Help to become more water-efficient, recycle water and cut waste, which could reduce your carbon footprint.
There are currently 15 Ofwat Verified Suppliers, with around 7 more in the process of verification, to choose from and whilst some of these are new companies and some originally operated in the Scottish market, some have been created by the existing retailers. For instance, Water 2 Business is a joint venture between Bristol Water and Wessex Water. The Water Report, which analyses and interprets industry developments, will be publishing a guide to the suppliers shortly.
Open Water claim there is nothing to lose by engaging in the market as it is less complex and less risky than the energy market with no big gains in price. However, by working with your supplier it could help to reduce consumption, increase innovation and enhance customer service. If you decide not to switch you will remain with your current supplier, who may operate under a new name, but they should not change any services you receive without prior notification. Nevertheless, you should check any bills issued after 1 April to ensure that your service has remained unchanged. You can then explore your options at leisure and reconsider switching at a time of your own choosing.
If you do decide to negotiate a new deal, there are five steps to follow:
- Check your usage and current price for water and wastewater.
- Ask your current supplier if they will improve your current contract as you are thinking about choosing a new retailer. A database of the charges each retailer will charge is in the process of being made available to customers.
- Ring or visit the websites of other retailers (from 6 March) or (from 1 April) use price comparison sites or a utility broker to check the deals. Some brokers may also offer you bundled services with other utilities.
- Contact your preferred retailers and ask for their best deal. This might include their proposed water charges, standards of service, support for water efficiency measures etc.
- If you elect to choose a new retailer, they will handle the switch for you and let you know when it’s done. You can still cancel within 7 days and the whole process should take no longer than one month.
Whether you choose to switch or not, there is a guarantee that no water supplies will be disrupted and if any billing errors come to light then there is a 16-month cap on restitution.
There are two more workshops scheduled, one in Birmingham on Wednesday 15 March and another in Leeds on Tuesday 21 March 2017. Each workshop will take place from 9.30am until 1pm and includes a networking lunch. If you wish to attend, then please contact Claire Nichols at [email protected], for further details.
Open Water have also published some FAQs.