The return of lockdown measures across England from 5 November will put more strain on businesses that are being instructed to close. Companies in Wales are already facing similar restrictions due to changes that were rolled out by the Welsh Government prior to the announcement in England.
If your company has been disrupted or hit financially, we want to ensure that you know what support is on offer, and what you can do to manage your water bills
My business has had to temporarily close – what should I do?
The biggest change from the previous lockdown in March is that businesses are no longer permitted to be marked as ‘temporarily vacant’ for the period they are closed. This means that you will not automatically be exempt from your water charges. However, there are steps you can take to try and make life easier and obtain support.
Firstly, you should let your retailer know that you’ve closed and provide them with some evidence – for example, an email or website notification for your customers. They may then be able to put your account on hold for the period you are shut and allow you to resume paying once you re-open.
It is important to try and provide meter reads to ensure your charges are as accurate as possible for the period you are closed. If you are struggling to do this, contact your retailer to ask for their assistance. They should be able to advise what they are able to do to ensure your bills reflect your water usage.
All businesses who are affected by the pandemic are entitled to a repayment plan from their retailer, up until 31st March 2021. If you are not already benefiting from this, you should contact your retailer as soon as possible to find out more about what it can offer.
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 June – and in place until 31 March 2021 – have given business customers extra breathing room if they’re in danger of falling behind on water bill payments. Retailers have to offer you a repayment scheme, which should be tailored to fit your particular circumstances. Your supplier should take into account your ability to pay any outstanding amounts, including interest and/or late payment charges. We would also expect retailers to have taken all reasonable steps to help you to pay before they consider taking any debt recovery action.
It’s vital you let your retailer know you’re struggling to afford your bills as soon as possible, so you can work out a suitable payment plan. If you are in disagreement with them about what you can afford, they should also be clear about what type of evidence they will consider.
How can CCW help my business?
We will continue to do everything in our power to support business customers through these uncertain times – particularly those anxious about not being able to afford their bills. That’s why we’re working closely with water 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 to make sure that retailers are taking necessary steps to enable struggling customers to make affordable payments. If we see evidence that some are being unfairly penalised through debt recovery action, we will ask Ofwat to step in.