Ask anyone who doesn’t work in the water sector what they want from the next price review and you’ll probably be met with blank expressions. Yet ask people about issues like affordability, tackling climate change, investment in infrastructure, protecting the environment, helping people in vulnerable circumstances, and you’ll be met by a wide range of opinions and viewpoints.
Of course, all of those factors are influenced by the price review – that is, the process by which water regulator Ofwat sets out what water companies are allowed to charge customers – as well as setting targets for what this money should be spent on – every five years. In other words, customers’ money and the service they receive in return depend on these decisions.
Despite progress made in recent years in terms of the way Ofwat and water companies listen to customers, decision-making power in the water sector is still heavily weighted in favour of the companies and regulators. That’s why, as the voice representing water consumers, we at CCW think it’s critical to give consumers a powerful voice at every stage of the price review process.
With that in mind, CCW has set out clear priorities for what we want to see from the 2024 Price Review (PR24), and what we intend do to help:
Providing clarity through collaborative research
Instead of each water company conducting its own research, we will help to facilitate centralised research across the industry. We hope that this will improve the consistency and comparability of company research to deliver a better overall view of customer views.
Supporting and assuring local challenge
CCW plays an important role in challenging companies in the development of their business plans. At PR24, we will do this by sharing data and information, supporting local stakeholder groups, and facilitating the sharing of best practice. We’ve proposed the creation of a Central Oversight Group to help deliver this.
Delivering high-quality customer engagement
For customers’ voices to make a real difference to the price review process, it’s important that all customer evidence used to inform decisions is of the highest quality. We’ve already published our Framework for Engagement at PR24 and will be building on this to help decision-makers strike a balance between the views of differing customer groups.
The right incentives for fast-tracked plans
Water companies can benefit from financial rewards and early certainty about their proposals if Ofwat gives them ‘fast-track’ status in the midst of the price review process. In our view, fast-track status should only be given where water companies have a track record of delivering on their promises to customers and sharing best practice.
Making clear how customers influence decisions
We encourage Ofwat to make it clear how the views of consumers can influence decisions across PR24; this transparency will add credibility to the process in the eyes of customers. We want a Price Review that clearly and unambiguously responds to the needs and priorities of customers.
Even though the outcome of this process won’t take effect until 2025, work has already started to shape the future of water and sewerage services. At CCW, we’re looking forward to playing an active role in delivering outcomes that are customer-focused, treat customers fairly and give them confidence in their water and wastewater services.
You can read more about CCW’s plans for PR24 here.