The non-household water market is still plagued by poor quality data one year after market opening, according to retailers.

Speaking at Future Retail #1, a conference held by Utility Week’s sister title Water.Retail in London today (23 March), retailers revealed they were still routinely encountering problems with data, with knock-on effects including inaccurate billing for customers.

Wave chief executive Lucy Darch said data quality varied widely between wholesalers, but meter data was a particular problem. She said: “We get some meter co-ordinates that would put the meter in the sea.”

Josh Gill, managing director at small retailer Everflow, also highlighted problems with meter reading location data, revealing the format of data in some instances meant that “as a new retailer, that data is absolutely useless.”

Other market issues highlighted at the conference included the arrangements for bilateral communications between individual wholesalers and retailers, and the retail margin.

Business Stream chief executive Jo Dow said the current margin did not reflect the costs of operating in the market, particularly those of funding the stringent working capital requirements: “If you look at the prices that exist in the market and at the retail margin, there is no doubt that there are elements of those costs that are not reflected in the margins allowed.”

Darch agreed but said automation and other business processes could help retailers realise value, while aligned services such as energy and insurance offered alternative revenue streams and “more interesting” margins. She said: “If you were just going to do water and you did not have great systems, it would be challenging.”

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