Operating in the market

Operating in Scotland’s non-household retail market

When operating in the market, retailers are expected to act openly and transparently with WICS, uphold their customer service commitments and communicate in a clear and open manner with their customers.

A market framework governs the operational aspects of supplying water and sewerage services to non-household customers. It is made up of a series of licence conditions, directions and codes.

How the market works

Since 1 April 2008 in Scotland, all non-household and public sector customers have been able to choose their retailer.  As the licensing authority for the market, WICS grants licences to retailers to operate in the market.

Information on current retailers is held on the register of licences.

View the register 

Scottish Water, as the wholesaler, continues to operate and maintain the water and wastewater network and provides wholesale services to retailers.

Retailers purchase wholesale water and sewerage services from Scottish Water, then sell these services, along with their own services to non-household customers. Retail services include all customer-facing activities such as meter reading, managing billing and payment arrangements, and customer enquiries and complaints. Some retailers offer additional value-added services such as advice on water efficiency and management of wastewater discharges.

Since the opening of the market, customers in Scotland have been able to benefit from lower charges, more tailored retail services and greater choice. There have also been environmental benefits – water consumption has decreased by 20% since market opening, reducing the operational carbon footprint of the industry.

Market stakeholders 

Scottish Government sets the Principles of Charging that underpin the charging arrangements for water and wastewater services that Scottish Water provides to retailers. 

Scottish Water operates Scotland’s publicly owned network of pipes, mains, and treatment works. It acts as the wholesaler in the market, selling water and sewerage services to retailers. It publishes annual wholesale charges and offers a regulated access to new entrants through a standard Wholesale Services Agreement.

Retailers All retailers with a licence can purchase wholesale water and sewerage services from Scottish Water, then sell these services, along with their own services, to customers. 

Central Market Agency (CMA) jointly owned by all market participants, the CMA manages the market settlement, customer registration and switching for the retail market. It administrates operational changes to the market codes through the Technical Panel.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is the advocacy body for consumers with a range of statutory powers and duties on water, energy and postal services.

Customers More than 150,000 non-household customers in Scotland are eligible to choose their retailer.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) handles complaints from customers that cannot be resolved on matters relating to the service provided by Scottish Water and retailers.

WICS The economic regulator for the water and wastewater industry manages the regulatory framework by encouraging the Scottish water industry to provide a high-quality service and value for money. WICS manages the non-domestic retail market framework and grants licences to retailers to operate in the market.