If you run a business there’s a good chance you may already be counting the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly if you’ve temporarily closed. The last thing you need is the prospect of water bills you cannot afford adding to the pressure. That’s why we’ve been working with our industry partners to introduce urgent changes to help businesses stay afloat during the crisis.
My business has had to temporarily close – what should I do?
One of the most important changes means businesses that have to close can now be classified as ‘vacant’. If your company falls into this category, it will receive no bill or a greatly reduced bill. The change took effect from 30 March.
It’s vital you let your retailer know if you’ve closed and provide them with some evidence that you’ve shut – for example, an email or website notification for your customers. And remember – if you still need to use some water on your premises for things like cleaning, you may be charged for this after the next meter reading is taken.
My business is still operating but using a lot less water than normal – what do I do?
The simplest and most effective way to show that you are using less water is to provide your retailer with meter readings. However, it may not be safe to do so given the current restrictions that are in place and retailers are unlikely to take readings either.
Without these readings you may continue to receive estimated bills based on past usage, which don’t reflect what you are currently using. We would urge you to contact your retailer and look for any help and guidance that they have published on their website. We expect retailers to work with you to ensure your bills are as accurate as possible and take into account your reduced consumption.
I cannot afford to pay my outstanding bill – can I get help?
Temporary measures introduced from early April have given business customers extra breathing room if they’re in danger of falling behind on water bill payments. Retailers can no longer disconnect you for missing a payment and they are also not allowed to chase any outstanding debt – which means they should not be sending you reminder letters or passing your arrears on to a debt collection agency. Late payment charges or adding interest to your account are also not permitted under the changes, which apply to all non-household customers until 31 May 2020 – a deadline that could be extended.
That will come as a relief to many businesses but it’s still vital you let your retailer know you’re struggling to afford your bills as soon as possible. We expect all retailers to be sympathetic to the pressures facing companies at this time and it may be they can offer you some form of assistance, including payment holidays.
If you’re a business based in Wales, measures are already in place to help you manage your finances during this difficult time but you should still get in touch with your supplier.
How can CCW help my business?
We will continue to do everything in our power to support business customers through these uncertain times. We’re already working closely with retailers to make sure they treat their customers fairly and we won’t hesitate to challenge them if they fail to do so.
We’re also monitoring the market with regulator Ofwat and market operator MOSL to see what other changes can be made to make life easier for business customers.
And don’t forget – we’re always here to offer you free advice or fight your corner if you’ve been unable to resolve a complaint against you retailer.