A proposed change to the codes which govern the water retail market will result in customers being able to be back-billed, Castle Water has warned.

At an emergency meeting of the Codes Panel on 16 July, a vote was taken to defer producing final settlement reports.

Ofwat’s website currently advises customers: “You should not receive a bill for any period beyond 16 months”. However, Castle Water warned the vote to suspend final settlement reports could lead to customers being able to be back-billed “against the intention of the market and against Ofwat’s express advice to customers”.

Castle Water chief executive John Reynolds said the vote “defies belief”. “Water retailers should not expect customers to put up with long-term uncertainty over billing. There is no need for this change to the market codes, which fundamentally changes the basis of the water market.”

The company said it was the only retailer to oppose the change, which it claimed would create unacceptable instability for customers. All other members of the panel voted for the deferral.

Wave – of which Anglian Water Business is now part – Clear Business Water and water2business all told Utility Week’s sister title Water.Retail they believe it is better to spend time resolving issues and getting the information in the central systems correct so that billing is accurate.

MOSL said its view was that there were “sufficient” actual, rather than estimated, reads in place for the final settlement reports to be run now. “It is a matter of judgement. The panel voted to propose a time-limited delay to Ofwat. Ofwat will have the final decision on this.”

The Codes Panel – which is made up of market representatives – was set up to discuss market issues and make recommendations to be sent to Ofwat. The panel itself does not make the decisions for the market.

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