Ofwat to set up measures to protect business customers during the COVID-19 pandemic

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OFWAT is stepping to help business customers struggling to pay their water and sewerage bills on time as a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

According to the regulator coronavirus emergency is expected to have a significant effect on water consumption and is therefore putting in place interim measures aimed at ensuring charges more accurately reflect reduced levels of consumption.

As a result, the regulator has launched a three day consultation with a chance to comment on its proposals.

Ofwat said that the Change Proposal is urgent because of the ‘profound and widespread effect that Covid-19 is having on the UK’ and the immediate impact that this is likely to have on non-household customers of retailers operating in the business retail water market.

The consultation document states: “The outbreak of Covid-19 and its spread within the UK has had a profound impact on the daily lives of millions of people.

“In March 2020, the UK government issued guidance and imposed legislative measures to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 by requiring that, unless exceptions apply, businesses and premises should be closed, and people should stay at home.

“This is expected to have a significant effect on water consumption so Ofwat has put in place interim measures aimed at ensuring charges more accurately reflect (reduced) levels of consumption.

“It is also expected to result in business customers struggling to pay their water bills on time so Ofwat has also put in place interim measures to temporarily defer the payment by retailers of some wholesale charges.

“Where customers are able to pay on time we expect retailers to continue to collect charges and to use these to fund the payment of wholesale charges.

“Where it is clear that customers cannot pay on time for reasons relating to Covid-19, we do not expect retailers to chase payment, charge interest or disconnect customers.”

The deadline to respond on the consultation is 12pm on Thursday 2 April.

The decision will be issued on Friday 3 April 2020, with expected implementation of the measures due to take effect from 6 April 2020.

The consultation was first reported by WaterBriefing.

Visit the consultation document here