April 2017 will see the biggest change in the water sector for almost 30 years. That’s because the retail water market is opening, allowing an estimated 1.2 million businesses, charities and public sector organisations the freedom to choose their water and waste water retailer.
The creation of this new market will allow businesses to switch from their local incumbent water company to another water supplier for retail (“account management”) activities.
Allowing business customers to choose between retailers will lead to more competitive pricing, improved customer service and the flexibility to negotiate better deals and rates with existing suppliers.
Legislation from the Government states that the incumbent water companies need to offer services fairly to all licensed retailers. This means that water companies will have to separate their organisations into wholesale and retail businesses.
Currently most water supplies are provided by a single incumbent water company who is responsible for supplying the water to a customer’s premises. This is known as the ‘wholesale’ service. The customer-facing services such as billing and handling customer queries are known as the ‘retail’ service.
IWNL Wholesale will become the wholesaler to properties within their inset areas and will provide water and sewerage services to IWNL Retail. You can find a full list of retailers on the Open Water website.
Whilst businesses who use more than 5,000m3 (or five million litres) of water per year have been able to switch their water supplier for some time now, most businesses in England haven’t had this option - but this is about to change.
From April 2017, all businesses in England (including charity, public sector and not-for-profit organisations) will be able to switch their water supplier and their sewerage or trade effluent supplier, much like you can now in the energy and telecom sector.