Important changes to the business water market in response to COVID-19 and impacting our customers in England and Wales
We are working closely with the Scottish and UK Government, Regulators to identify further measures to help support customers. We are also continuing to work with our Wholesalers to ensure that every step is taken to minimise any risks that may affect the delivery of water and wastewater services. We recognise that this is a difficult time for many businesses. Following the recent changes from Ofwat, the water industry regulator, we have put in place a number of temporary measures to support business customers in need during the outbreak support those. We will no longer:
- Serve disconnection notices for the non-payment of bills or invoices;
- Look to recover any default interest or impose late payment charges for non-payment of invoices that were issued from 1 March 2020;
Charge default interest or impose late payment charges for any non-payment of invoices from 8 April 2020
Instead, we will be:
- Offering support to customers who have had to temporarily close their business premises
- Providing a wide range of flexible payment plans to enable customers to find an option that best works for them
These temporary measures are in place for a limited time to help our customers affected by COVID-19. This will be in place from 8 April until 31 May 2020 (or as notified by Ofwat). Our contractual terms will revert to normal when Ofwat advises these restrictions can be removed.
Please note, these measures are in place to help support those in need. If you are able to make payments then please continue to pay it as usual if you can. By paying your bill, we’ll be able to cover your wholesale charges and help maintain critical services to businesses at a time when water is vital.
We realise this may be an uncertain time for customers and we aim to work with them on a case by case basis to resolve any concerns. Please take a look as well at our Q&As for answers to various queries you may have regarding billing and payment. In the meanwhile, you will find below some answers to queries related to the new change.
What are the changes to charges if my business is closed?
If your business was mandated to close due to the impacts of COVID-19, as per the government’s instructions, we can make ensure you don't incur certain charges for your water while your premises are closed during the crisis period (currently until 31 May 2020). We will change your occupancy status to vacant. Vacant means that it is not open or available to workers, the public or visitors; or it has seen a significant decrease in usual activities.
How to tell us that the premises are vacant?
If your premises are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, please let us know as soon as possible by emailing us your meter readings (photos of your meter read if possible) and date for the start of the vacancy at email@example.com, along with all your account details. We will update your account. Please note if requested and failing to provide evidence of your closure this will result in us being unable to remove your standing charges for this period.
What happens next with my billing?
If you’ve told us your business is closed, we’ll send your most recent bill to cover charges from before you closed. You won’t receive a further bill until the crisis period is over (currently until 31 May 2020).
What if we use water when the business is temporarily closed?
Unless the stopcock is turned off, so no water can flow on the premises at all (including to any toilets, taps and appliances), water may still flow through the meter which means you’re using water from the main supply. Ofwat has confirmed that we’ll receive charges for this use, so this will be included on your next bill, once you re-open.
What to do if you’re still open and your water consumption pattern has changed?
Please let us know if your premises are still open but you are using less (or more) water than usual. Send us via our email firstname.lastname@example.org with your more recent reading. This will help to update your account by re-calculating your estimated charges and ensuring that we bill you for the water you’ve used.
What if I can’t pay my bills during the crisis period?
We’re working with businesses who need our support to let them know about their options around payment plans and timescales. If you’re concerned about your bills, please get in touch with us at email@example.com straight away to see how we might be able to help.
What should I do if I need to re-open or re use my premises?
Let us know you’re returning by sending us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Provide us with two sets of meter readings, one week apart, to ensure we are billing you on accurate, up-to-date consumption. Once you have informed us that you have returned, you will start to receive regular scheduled bills again.
COVID-19 SUPPORT: SCOTLAND CUSTOMERS
Scottish Government Guidelines
Regulations set by the Scottish Government states that if a business stops trading, (temporarily or permanently), all water service charges are still payable in full. This is also applicable when your premises are vacant. That charges will continue up to the point that the business no longer has a legal right to occupy the property Nevertheless, working closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish Water, the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS), has introduced two new Charges Relief Schemes to help non-household customers cope with coronavirus challenges:
- Wholesale Charge Deferral
- Payment Refund
Deferral of wholesale volumetric charging
Under this Scheme, non-household customers can apply to Scottish Water on your behalf for a deferral of the wholesale volumetric charging for water and sewerage.
Deferral of wholesale fixed charging
Additionally, non-household premises with a 25mm or smaller meter and non-household unmetered premises can also apply to Scottish Water for a 60% deferral of their wholesale fixed charges for the standing meter or the unmeasured water and sewerage wholesale charges and the drainage wholesale charges. Trade effluent is not covered.
How can we apply?
The application will be made by Licensed providers (retailers) on behalf of the customers. It will be assessed by Scottish Water, who will exercise reasonable judgment as to your business’s eligibility, based on the guidance on business closures issued by the Scottish Government.
Prepayment Refund Scheme
All customers who have pre-paid for their water, waste or drainage services in advance are entitled to a refund of the pre-paid wholesale element of their charges made for services provided between 24 March 2020 and before 24 September 2020. The only exceptions are if the customer has already received a refund or expressly opts out. Customers currently invoiced quarterly or annually in advance will now receive a monthly invoice unless they explicitly opt-out of this scheme.
How long will the schemes last?
Both schemes, which will be backdated to 24 March 2020 and last for six months until 24 September 2020 (or extended until the end of 2020 subject to a review in August).
Scottish Government support
The Scottish Government has also provided some support to help pay your bills Click here.
As in the current circumstances, it is difficult for many businesses across the UK, we are keen to pass on support to our customers that find themselves in financial distress. If you are experiencing difficulty in paying your bills or have queries about your payment, please get in touch with us at email@example.com. We can offer a range of support options including flexible payment plans to enable customers to find an option that best works for them.