Water companies’ retail exit must ensure “a seamless process for customers”

Defra has published the form water companies must complete to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to withdraw from the non-household retail market for water – and demonstrate that this will ensure “a seamless process for customers.”

From April 2017, water companies can withdraw from their obligation to supply retail services to non-household customers and transfer responsibility to other providers.

The exit application process, which opens on 3 October, is run by Defra and decisions on applications are made by the Secretary of State.

Introducing the form, Defra said that there are at least two parties involved in a retail exit – the undertaker requesting permission to exit (the applicant) and the acquiring licensee or licensees to whom the exiting undertaker’s non-household customers will be transferred should permission for the exit be granted.

The form must be completed by the exiting water company who will need to coordinate with the acquiring licensee/s to provide all the required information. Each acquiring licensee will also need to provide a letter of support for the requested exit.

Secretary of State wants to understand high-level reasons behind applications to exit

As part of the application, any exiting water company is being asked to briefly outline the reasons for wanting to exit the non-household retail market in no more than 500 words – the form states:

“The Secretary of State wishes to understand the high-level reasons behind your application to exit and how it will support your company’s business plan. We do not require detailed facts or figures to support your reasons for exit.”

Applicants must also provide the exact date on which they propose to withdraw from the non-household retail market which must be at least 5 months from the date of application but not be before 3 April 2017.

Both the exiting water company and the acquiring licensee(s) are asked to provide information on how they will comply with the customer communication requirements in the Water and Sewerage Undertakers (Exit from Non-household Retail Market) Regulations 2016 and make sure that customers are fully aware of the arrangements and options available to them.

On ensuring “a seamless process for customers”, the form also says that “the government wants the customers of an existing undertaker to have a positive experience of the process“ and invites applicants to include details of steps taken “to ensure that your customers have a positive experience of your exit.”

The exit application process opens on 3 October 2016. Companies seeking to exit at market opening will need to submit their applications by one of two dates in November 2016.

Source: Water Briefing