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UK Water Market – One Year Post Deregulation

A year of data & billing chaos since the deregulation of the UK water market has left many more confused than ever. Our Water expert, Eddie Spencer, takes a look at the market in England as we approach the 1-year anniversary since deregulation……

It would be naive to expect fundamental changes in any industry not to experience teething problems, and the water market in England has proved to be no different.  We expect the market to begin to see improvements over the next 12 months, but customers should not wait for the market to right itself. In the interim, companies should demand assurances that their billing is accurate.

Some common frustrations experienced by customers following the market opening:

  • Puzzling new market: A lack of market awareness is intensified by a disconnect between wholesalers and retailers, causing confusion as to where the lines of responsibility are drawn between trading parties.

  • Frustration: With a distinct lack of uniformity and standardization embodying the new market, supplier performance can vary enormously. There are 25+ retailers operating in the newly created water market, and more choice than ever before. This begs the question: is loyalty towards your local supplier a strong enough reason to trust them with your business?
  • Concerns over accuracy: Billing accuracy in the water industry wasn’t perfect prior to deregulation, however, published statistics show that the number of customer complaints recorded in 2017-18 Q3 more than quadrupled from the prior year period (65 percent of which related to billing and charges). The market entrants are working hard to improve the end-user experience, however, with more customers than ever before querying their charges, customers are strongly advised to validate the accuracy of all invoices, even if payment has already been released.

In summary, we recommend 4 strategies to navigate water market chaos:

  1. Check the invoices issued by your new supplier to ensure that the tariff arrangements put in place by your former provider have been correctly transferred across.
  2. Understand the payment arrangements introduced by your new supplier and their late payment process.
  3. Establish points of contact for your new supplier(s) for dealing with customer queries – whether key account manager or general helpdesk.
  4. Take time to understand the new market arrangements, including the separation of wholesaler, retailer and customer roles and responsibilities.

To read more on this subject, including the full findings from customer interactions, download our market review.

Contributed by: Eddie Spencer, Head of Water Services, Schneider Electric Energy & Sustainability Services