Ofwat is seeking views on its proposed principles for voluntary codes of conduct for third party intermediaries (TPIs) in the business water retail market.
It comes as 1.2 million businesses, charity and public sector organisations in England will be able to choose who they pay for their retail water and wastewater services from April.
TPIs, such as brokers and price comparison websites, are parties who are not licensed water or sewerage retailers but engage with businesses to assist them with their water supply or wastewater needs. They offer advice and products with a range of services including water procurement, efficiency and management.
Ofwat hopes to prevent malpractice and poor service from affecting the successful functioning of the market and aims to protect business customers.
It believes the opportunity to sign up to a voluntary code of practice will benefit TPIs “because it gives them the opportunity to demonstrate to business customers that they offer the same commitments on customer protection as licensed retailers”.
It follows the Customer Protection Code of Practice published last year, which sets out the minimum standards that all retailers will need to comply with when dealing with business customers.
That includes being fair, transparent and honest, not selling a product the customer doesn’t fully understand, providing reliable, accurate and timely information and not exaggerating the savings that could be achieved by switching.
Richard Khaldi, Ofwat Senior Director said: “The use of third party intermediaries is a key opportunity for customers to engage through a forum they already use for other services and to potentially benefit from multi-utility offerings. While many TPIs offer valuable services to business customers and will play an important part in the new water market, there have been concerns about the way some TPIs have operated in other markets, such as energy.
“We want there to be some form of protection in place for customers to minimise the chances of them being mis-sold and ensure people have access to complete and accurate information.”
The consultation is open until 7th March.