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25 November 2016
The water market is due to open in 3 April 2017, so organisations will be able to switch to the water and sewerage supplier that best suits their needs in a new, more competitive market. Geoff Smith, director of business retail at water2business, explains what this could mean for FM, the questions to ask and how to find the best deal for your business
Check that you are being billed for sites that actually belong to you, especially if you are a multi-site business. Ask your retailer to confirm which sites they are invoicing you for, then carry out an audit to establish that their data matches yours.
Check the data and bills that you receive from your supplier. If you are a seasonal business, does the water use correlate with when you should be seeing peaks and troughs? Ascertain whether you are being billed based on readings or estimates. Map out exactly which services you are paying for at any given site. You may find it differs significantly, as some may require wastewater/highway drainage.
What's in it for me?
The freedom of choice that comes from market reform provides a chance to access a more tailored service, whether that is a retailer with experience in your sector, or one that specialises in working with businesses of a particular size. Reviewing your current service now could also make paying your bills much more efficient in future. Rather than dealing with multiple bills for multiple sites, you will have access to providers with the infrastructure to service all of your facilities, regardless of region, for a single invoice.
Some retailers will offer monthly reports to allow you to identify and respond to anomalies resulting in waste.
Choosing the right retailer
Some retailers will focus on a simple transactional service, others a more partner-led approach to manage all of your water needs while driving down costs. If you are a multi-site business be sure that your retailer has the infrastructure in place to support you. And if your various sites have differing requirements from a supplier - perhaps one requires access to wastewater solutions and you are looking for a partner that has the expertise to ensure that your water effluence remains compliant - then consider which would provide the most comprehensive service.
Not yet ready to change provider? Don't panic; you will be automatically put on a default tariff as part of a contract with your current retailer until you are better placed to do so. Regulator OFWAT guarantees that you will be no worse off than you were pre-reform.
What is the 2017 Water Deregulation?
The water market in Scotland was deregulated in 2008. Scottish Water remained the sole wholesaler of water and retained control of water infrastructure, but set up a non-domestic division, Business Stream, and joined the retail market with several other bodies as licensed providers. The providers buy water services from Scottish Water and bundle this with additional services to sell on to organisations.
The market in England, now made up of a number of regional monopolies, is set to follow suit in April 2017. Customers will be able to switch water and wastewater services provider at any time, for any reason, and without penalty.
Non-household customers now served by a supplier based in Wales will only be eligible to switch if their use exceeds 50 million litres a year. Otherwise they will continue to be served by their regional water company.
The deregulation is expected to result in better customer service and more water efficiency savings - and to encourage innovation and competition in the market. Much of this has been documented in Scotland over the past eight years.