OFWAT has issued a new code of practice to protect businesses, charities and public sector customers in preparation for the de-regulation of the water market in England. Under new rules set out in the code, when the English water retail market opens on 1st April 2017, water companies will only be permitted to back-bill commercial customers for under-charged amounts for a maximum period of 16 months. The policy is a considerable change from the statutory six year period that is currently in place.
There is no suggestion that there will be any change to the code with regard to overcharges and therefore the presumption is that the six year statutory time limit remains in force. The expectation is that water companies will now be putting in place even more resources into identifying those businesses and public sector organisations who are potentially being undercharged.
The code aims to deliver targeted safeguards, especially for smaller organisations, and in doing so will strengthen the new, competitive retail water market. OFWAT has stated that it is working hard to put in place all the necessary elements to ensure that next April, when the world’s largest competitive water market opens, it is ready for business. It has taken its learning from the experience of other sectors opening to competition and understands important to have the right customer protections in place. The code also makes particular provision for micro-businesses – those with fewer than 10 employees – allowing for them to arrange affordable repayment plans for outstanding bills and introduces a seven-day cooling off period to change or cancel a contract.
From April 2017, the water retail market will be open to customers in England and Wales, allowing for the negotiation of improved terms, historic and forward going validation of water charges, consolidation of water supplies and ultimately, competitive pricing of water supply contracts. For further information or to find out how your business can take advantage of these benefits, please email complete the contact form or call Melanie Kendall-Reid on 01252 87 87 22.