Open Water is the program initiated by the UK Government in 2017 to open the water retail market for businesses, charities, and public sector customers in England. The Open Water program is led by three partner organisations, Ofwat, Defra, and MOSL, in collaboration with existing water companies across England, Scotland, and Wales.
How the market works
With the introduction of the business retail water market, eligible businesses, charities and non-household customers gain the freedom to choose their supplier of water and wastewater retail services. This market offers benefits such as lower bills due to improved water efficiency, enhanced service standards, and more tailored services that meet individual business needs. Additionally, opening the water market brings significant environmental benefits.
Customers who decide to stay with their existing supplier are protected by a maximum price known as a 'default tariff’ for a standard level of service. Those who choose to switch receive a formal contract from their new retailer, providing price details and the services they will receive, which is legally protected like any other agreement for the supply of goods and services.
All retailers must comply with Ofwat’s Customer Protection Code of Practice, which includes measures to protect small to medium-sized businesses. These measures include limitations on back-billing periods, a cooling-off period once a contract is signed, and the provision of clear information in contracts to avoid mis-selling services. Ofwat also encourages Third Party Intermediaries (TPIs) to operate ethically and in the customer’s best interests.
The Open Water program aims to make the business retail water market successful by providing customers with choice, protection, and fair competition.
What are the benefits of an open water market?
The open water market, or non-household retail water market, offers several benefits for businesses and organizations:
- Increased choice: with an open market, businesses have the freedom to choose their water retailer from a range of licenced providers. This increased choice allows businesses to select a retailer that best aligns with their specific needs, including pricing, customer service, and additional value-added services.
- Competitive pricing: the introduction of competition in the water market can lead to more competitive rates and customised pricing plans, which can result in potential cost savings for businesses.
- Enhanced customer service: competition encourages water retailers to differentiate themselves by providing excellent customer service. Retailers may offer dedicated account managers, improved response times, and tailored solutions to meet the unique requirements of businesses. This focus on customer service can lead to an overall improved experience for businesses.
- Innovation and efficiency: the open water market (link) fosters innovation and encourages retailers to develop new products, services, and technologies to stay competitive. This drive for innovation can lead to the introduction of water-saving initiatives, leak detection technologies, and other efficiency measures that benefit businesses and contribute to sustainability goals.
- Water management support: many water retailers offer additional services beyond billing, such as water efficiency advice, leak detection services, and water management solutions. These value-added services can help businesses optimise their water usage, identify potential savings, and implement sustainable practices.
- Regulatory oversight: in an open water market, regulatory bodies oversee the industry to ensure fair practices, consumer protection, and market stability. This oversight provides businesses with confidence in the market, knowing that there are regulations in place to maintain standards and resolve disputes.
Overall, the open water market promotes competition, innovation, and customer-centricity, resulting in benefits such as increased choice, competitive pricing, improved customer service, and access to value-added services. Businesses can leverage these advantages to optimise their water management, reduce costs, and achieve their sustainability objectives.
If your business hasn’t switched supplier yet, you may be missing out on significant savings.
To get a quote and start your switch to Source for Business today, click here.
Who controls the water market?
The market is still monitored and regulated by officials to ensure that there are limits on the price consumers pay if they don’t switch.
In England, the Open Water programme is led by three partner organisations.
- Defra is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
- Ofwat is responsible as the economic regulator and licensing authority for the market.
- MOSL is the Market Operator and ensures that the market remains simple and efficient.
- In Scotland, the WICS – the Water Industry Commission for Scotland is responsible for regulating the market.
Who is eligible to switch?
In the non-household water market, the primary aim is to provide choice to all customers, regardless of their size or business type. The eligibility criteria are designed to be inclusive, ensuring that most non-household customers can switch their water and wastewater retailer. Establishing eligibility is typically straightforward – if the premises are primarily used for non-household purposes, such as factories, schools, or offices, they are eligible.
The goal is to create a level playing field where businesses of all sizes can access the benefits of market competition. By offering choice and opening the market, customers can select the water and wastewater retailer that best suits their specific needs and requirements.
Whether your business is eligible to switch or not, your local water company will continue to provide your wholesale services.
If you are not sure if you can switch, use Open Water’s eligibility guide and checker.
What if I have never switched my business water supplier?
If you have never switched your business water supplier, you might be missing out on potential benefits. Even though the water market in the UK was deregulated in 2017, many business owners remain unaware of their ability to switch suppliers. Consequently, many companies continue to pay higher out-of-contract rates with their default water supplier.
By taking advantage of the competitive nature of the open water market and exploring different retail supplier choices, you can potentially unlock better pricing options, improved customer service, and tailored solutions that align with your business needs.
Don’t miss out and consider switching your business water and wastewater retail supplier today and start enjoying the benefits of potential cost savings and enhanced customer service. To get a quote and start your switch to Source for Business today click here.
What’s involved in the switching process?
Switching your water and wastewater retail supplier is a seamless process. In five minutes and in five simple steps, we'll provide you with a competitive quote on your water and wastewater services. If you are happy with your quote, you can sign up immediately.
At Source for Business, we strive to make the switching process as simple and hassle-free as possible. Our dedicated team will handle everything on your behalf, ensuring a seamless transition to our services.
Click here to get a quote.