What is happening?
From April 2017 an estimated 1.2 million eligible businesses and non-household customers, in England, will be able to choose their supplier of water and wastewater services. This is a change from the current system which requires businesses to use a specific water supplier based on the geographic location of the business.
Who is eligible?
In England, any premises whose principle activity is that of business will be eligible to choose. There is currently no formal ruling in place other than this guideline, however a good way to judge would be whether your business premises is liable for Business Rates (including concessions). If so, you should qualify. To find out for certain, you can access ofwat’s eligibility guidance or speak to your current supplier.
However, if your current supplier is based in Wales, then unfortunately nothing is changing.
What does this mean?
This is an opportunity for businesses to save more money by reducing their water bills. An example of this can been seen by looking at Scotland, where water deregulation for businesses has been around since 2008. Since then savings of at least 25% are regularly seen. Businesses can shop around for the best water deal and get feedback from the newly formed water suppliers to help find ways to save water. For instance, Greene King has saved the equivalent of 304 million pints across 1,400 sites by addressing its water usage. This translates to approximately £900k in savings.
Do I have to change?
No, there is no legal requirement to switch from your current supplier. Your supplier will have already prepared for this on their end, and there is nothing you need to do. However, doing nothing may cost you. Taking no action could lead to you being put on a “default tariff”, which is usually more expensive.
How should I prepare?
Firstly, you need to get your current billing in order. If this is incorrect, it could mean a delay in switching over when the time comes. It would be a good idea to take the time to understand how you currently use your water. How much do you use? When are the peak times? These bits of information are key in helping you negotiate the best deal in the new open market.