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how it works

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

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

Retailers will 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 will provide the wholesale services and will 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 will continue to be regulated by Ofwat.

water retailers

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

Retail services include:

  • billing
  • meter reading
  • customer services

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

Retailers can offer tailored services and set prices to enable them to compete for business in the open market.

businesses and other non-household customers

Since 2011, only businesses and other non-household customers using in excess of 5 million litres of water have been able to choose who supplies their water and wastewater services. When the water market opens to competition in April 2017, around 1.2 million more businesses will become 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.

In the open market, eligible customers will be able to look at each retailer’s offering and choose the best deal for their business. Customers can decide who they wish to provide their water, their wastewater services, or both.

Customers will be able to switch at any time, for any reason and without penalty.

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

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