Water coming out of a tap from water supplier

Competition could be coming to the UK water supply market


Regularly switching your gas and electricity supplier to find the cheapest deal has now become the norm in the UK, with consumers having several different companies to choose from and a good few energy comparison sites to help them achieve the best savings with minimal effort. There is one huge market, though, that to date seems to have been left out of this retail revolution, and that is the UK water supply market.

At present, UK consumers don’t have any choice in whom they choose to supply their water, as there is only one company in each area which supplies water. This means that if your water company decides it is going to raise its prices or you experience extremely poor levels of customer service, there really is nowhere else you can go, you are stuck with your supplier. Don’t despair, though, as this could all be about to change under new proposals from UK regulator Ofwat.

Ofwat proposes bringing greater competition to the water market

Recent proposals announced by Ofwat – the body that regulates water and sewerage providers in England and Wales – plans to bring greater competition to the UK water market, allowing firms to buy ‘batches’ of water from existing suppliers which they can then sell on to UK households. Not only this, but firms would also be allowed to ‘package’ the supply of water up with other services such as the supply of gas and electricity services, or even along with the supply of broadband.

Cathryn Ross, chief executive of Ofwat, recently told the BBC “The service offers from water companies can feel behind the curve compared to the innovation customers benefit from when buying other goods. The uncomfortable truth is that, when it comes to retail offers, water companies provide an analogue service in a digital age.” She also said that she hoped the opening up of the market would bring significant benefits to customers in the way of better service and that she would like to see the process of switching made “as simple as possible”.

Will it happen?

While the idea of opening up the UK water market is more than feasible, it’s worth remembering that at this stage these proposals are just that, proposals. Nothing concrete has yet been decided and there has been no official approval given on a governmental level. The UK government has said that although the proposals “could secure potential benefits”, it would be a large undertaking and that the proposals still need much further consideration. Domestic customers who are excited by the prospect, however, can take encouragement from the fact that the process of increasing competition in the water market is already happening in the business market, with new competition set to open up from April of 2017 in this sector.

So, if you feel that you are overpaying for your water supply or you think that your current water supplier offers a substandard service, then at least you now have the hope that changes could soon be on the way.

Would you like to see more competition in the UK water supply market?

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