Tips for the New Water Market

Water supplies to business in England (and some in Wales) opened to competition in April this year. That means you can shop around and choose from around 20 licensed water retailers. You should be able to get a lower price and better service. But, there are a few things to look out for:

Hobson’s choice? 

You might decide that you want to stay with your old water company (wholesaler) and not bother with the new market. Sorry, but that is not an option. If you haven’t actively switched then you will have already been transferred to a new retailer without your knowledge, this might be the retail arm of your old supplier (incumbent retailer) or your contract might have been sold to a completely different company!

No need to dig up the road! 

The physical water supply and sewers don’t change, you still use the same pipes as you did before, it is the retail service bit that changes (bills, advice etc).

Shop around. 

If you do want to change then the Open Water website has a list of retailers. It is probably best to get in touch with them all, have a chat and see who you like best. The things to consider are: service, price, scale, and water efficiency, and in my view whether you are going to be treated as a valued customer or just client number 167281. Also, if the retail arm of your old water company starts waffling about their water efficiency expertise you might want to ask why they didn’t bother offering you any help or advice in the past 25 years. 

Big bad data. All the players in the water market use a central shared database which holds information on water consumption and sewerage discharges for each customer, including all the supply points, charging rates and other information necessary for billing. However, the data that water wholesalers have put in this database is often incomplete and incorrect. What this means for customers is that your bills may be wrong. If you swap retailer then this will come to light quite quickly as there will be discrepancies between previous and current bills. However, if you stay with your incumbent retailer then the problems may remain hidden.

Get organised!

So my advice is to gather together all your bills and information and then shop around, and if you decide to switch, then choose a retailer where you can get through to a human on the phone, a retailer who is interested in helping you to save water, a retailer who can offer you a bespoke service, and obviously a retailer with a competitive price.

Happy hunting!

Professor Jacob Tompkins, CTO at The Water Retail Company

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