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how it works

The open retail water market works in a similar way to the other utility markets, such as gas, electricity and telecoms.

Wholesalers provide water and wastewater services to retailers, who in turn sell these services to business customers.

Retailers compete with each other by offering the best deal and eligible customers can choose which retailer to buy water and wastewater services from.

wholesale suppliers

The regional water companies provide the wholesale services and continue to:

  • maintain the water pipe networks
  • manage the physical supply of water to your business
  • treat your wastewater and return it to the environment

Wholesale services and prices are regulated by Ofwat.

water retailers

Licensed retailers buy water and wastewater services from the wholesalers and operate the retail services.

Retail services include:

  • billing
  • meter reading
  • customer services

Some retailers may package water and wastewater services with other utilities and services to compete for customers.

Retailers can offer tailored services and set prices that enable them to compete for business.

businesses and other non-household customers

Since 2011, only businesses and other non-household customers who use more than 5 million litres of water a year have been able to choose who supplies their water and wastewater services. Since the market opened to competition, around 1.2 million more businesses are now eligible to switch.

Non-household customers include:

  • businesses
  • charities and not-for-profit organisations
  • public sector bodies

The eligibility guide can help you to see if your business is eligible to switch.

Eligible customers can look at each retailer’s offering and decide which one offers the best deal for their business before choosing who they want to provide their water, their wastewater services, or both.

Customers can switch at any time, for any reason and without penalty.

Non-household customers currently served by a supplier based in Wales are only eligible to switch if they use more than 50 million litres of water a year. Otherwise they will continue to be served by their regional water company.

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