Water retailers reminded to treat struggling business customers fairly

Making sure that business customers who have been impacted by Covid-19 are well supported by their water retailer has been a pressing priority for CCW since the outbreak of the pandemic.

That’s why we have supported a raft of measures over the past six months designed to protect business customers who are struggling to pay their water bills and make them aware of the assistance on offer.

The return of lockdown restrictions in England this month will have cranked up the pressure on many businesses and now – more than ever – we expect water retailers to be reaching out to these customers in particular, to offer payment support where needed and to treat them fairly.

With the industry regulator, Ofwat, we have written to all retailers, setting out our expectations of them during this difficult period.

In summary:

  • Business customers who have been forced to close as a result of the second national lockdown may not be in a position to pay their bills. Retailers should make it a priority to engage with this group of customers to ensure they are offered appropriate support
  • Clearly communicate the protections in place for customers impacted by the pandemic. This includes direct contact with customers, signposting information, and advising customers about the options available to them on their websites
  • Understand how customers are being impacted by the current restrictions , and clearly explain the protections available to them, which should be tailored to their specific needs
  • Make sure that bills reflect actual water use by taking a meter read (where possible and safe to do so, including for the customer themselves), or use a good quality estimate based on an understanding on how Covid-19 has impacted the business
  • Put appropriate payment plans in place if companies can’t pay because of Covid-19
  • Listen to and understood the customer’s position. We expect payment plans to be changed if they are no longer affordable, and customers to be given as much time to pay as possible

CCW and Ofwat have made clear that they do not want to see customers being treated unfairly during this period. If we see evidence that people are being threatened with debt enforcement action, or disconnection, when it is clear they are unable to pay, we will consider what further action can be taken to protect customers.

Read our joint statement (pdf)