Customers, Policy & regulation, News

by Megan Darby

Retail market codes should make water companies standardise their pricing structures, Ofwat senior director of markets and economics Sonia Brown told big business representatives last week.

Speaking at a Major Energy Users’ Council (MEUC) event on water competition, Brown said: “I am a huge fan of standardisation” but it would be a “tough one to crack”.

Some regulatory oversight of the non-domestic retail market, due to open in April 2017, would be essential but Ofwat would try to avoid regulatory control, she said. “We have no desire to have an industry that is constantly probed and prodded from a regulatory perspective, because that makes everyone lose confidence in the market.”

David Olivant, procurement manager at Asda and chair of the MEUC’s water competition action group, supported some consolidation in water retail. “What we don’t want to see is a water ‘big six’. By the same token, I don’t want 27 water salesmen knocking at our door.”

An informal survey of MEUC members suggested they were seeing a slight improvement in customer service in anticipation of retail market opening.

There was scepticism over the effectiveness of water companies’ recently established “customer challenge panels”, however. Olivant said: “We see water companies looking to customers, given little information, to rubber stamp their business plans.”

Brown said companies that did not make good use of the panels “can expect a much harder time from us”.

This article first appeared in Utility Week’s print edition of 5th October 2012.

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