Many businesses were financially impacted by Covid-19 so it’s vital they get the help and support they need. While the open retail market gives businesses choice about who provides their water retail services – handling complaints and enquiries, sending water and sewerage bills and taking meter readings – a competitive market means just that. It’s expected that retailers will enter and exit the market, some growing their customer base at a faster pace than others, but businesses shouldn’t be negatively impacted as a result.
We want all businesses to be confident that their money is protected if their retailer were to exit the market. That’s why we’ve launched our ‘Credit where it’s due’ campaign. We have been working with Ofwat to help make changes to the rules around business protections and important steps have already been made. By 20th July this year retailers must inform their customers about the risk and benefits of making advance payments, as well as alternative payment options available to them and the amount of credit building up in their accounts. Retailers must also return any credit to a customer within 60 days of them receiving a final bill after switching to another retailer.
It’s critical that this information is clearly and regularly communicated to all businesses, regardless of size. As part of our campaign, we’ll be working with retailers to ensure clear messages are being delivered so:
- Businesses know if their retailer were to exit the market this may mean that any credit they have accrued on their accounts could be lost.
- Businesses are aware that paying in advance increases the risk of credit build-up and the others ways they can chose to keep up their payments.
- Businesses are aware of their rights to have credit returned in a timely manner when they switch retailer.
We’ll be providing a communication toolkit to help retailers effectively reach out to their customers, and we will be engaging directly with businesses and their representative organisations to help spread the word. It’s important they know their rights.
Because we know that awareness of the open market is low, with the majority of businesses having not yet switched retailer, we’ll also be campaigning to further strengthen the credit protections so that any accrued credit is automatically returned to businesses on an annual basis from April 2023. Of course, some will want the choice about whether to get their credit back, so CCW will call for an opt out function to cater for all needs.
What we don’t want is businesses to be out of pocket, particularly at a time when every penny counts. Find out more about the open retail market and how to choose your water retailer.