Our Policy Manager Evan Joanette reflects on the experiences of customers after a steady start to the new non-household retail water market in England.
It’s hard to believe that four months have already passed since the long-awaited opening of the non-household retail water market in England.
Since April 1, businesses, charities and public sector organisations have had the freedom to shop around or negotiate a better deal on their billing, meter reading and customer service.
Figures released by the market operator MOSL suggest that about 1 per cent of eligible customers have taken the plunge and switched. It’s safe to assume that a similar percentage are likely to have renegotiated with their existing retailer.
It’s still early days but you might be wondering what the experience has been like for those customers who have dipped into the market?
Few organisations are better placed to answer that question than CCWater. As the consumer body for the water industry, we’re committed to supporting the regulator Ofwat’s market monitoring efforts by collecting information about the issues that customers raise with us and also by pulling together complaints information from the retailers themselves.
Our infographic provides a useful snapshot of how things have gone for the non-household customers that had reason to contact us in the first quarter of this financial year.
One of the figures that might catch your eye is the six-fold increase in enquiries we’ve had from businesses, compared to the same period last year. Despite widespread campaigning by CCWater and the wider industry to raise awareness of the market, it’s clear to us that some customers still need more help understanding competition and how to exercise their choice.
During the first week of the new market, we received a lot of contact from customers who simply needed to know who their new retailer was. Some customers also voiced dissatisfaction with the new market but overall complaints have increased at a rate that we would expect when faced with inevitable teething problems.
Bills and charges remained the biggest area of concern but competition has also created some new types of complaints. These included complaints that some day-to-day activities were taking longer to resolve than normal, due to retailers having to work with wholesalers – who continue to treat and pump water and wastewater to and from customers – behind the scenes.
But overall it has been an encouraging start with no major problems to report so far. Retailers, the regulator Ofwat, the market operator MOSL and CCWater are working well together to resolve any problems. This willingness to communicate and collaborate can help to ensure the market continues to grow and delivers benefits to all non-household customers – large and small.
In the meantime we’ll continue to provide businesses of all shapes and sizes with the support and advice they need to navigate a clear and safe path through the market.