Headlines: May 27th, 2004

The interests of all water and sewerage customers need to be considered when the opportunity to benefit from competition in the water industry is opened to large commercial and other non-household customers, according to WaterVoice, which represents customers across England and Wales.In its response to a consultation by Ofwat, DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government, WaterVoice said it wanted to see the new competition regime deliver reduced charges and better service packages to the estimated 2,300 non-household customers in the competitive market, but also ultimately to produce more efficient operations, lower charges and improved services for all customers.

WaterVoice said early consideration should be given in the development of the competition framework to the implications of reducing the initial threshold of 50 megalitres per year. This, it said, should include analysis of how the provisions would apply to a larger market of smaller businesses, or even domestic customers, without the need for radical change.

Herman Scopes, Chairman of the body’s competition group, said competition would bring choice for large users but must not disadvantage other customers. In particular, drinking water quality and security of supply must not be put at risk. The right balance had to be struck between creating a competitive regime for large concerns with the opportunity to choose their supplier, and the interests of the remainder of customers who would remain subject to a monopoly.