WICS’s responsibilities in relation to the retail market
WICS is able to grant new water and sewerage licences and revoke existing licences. We also administer the licensing framework, and are responsible for making sure that the market operates in an orderly fashion.
Our licensing powers are limited by an obligation to ensure that there is no detriment to Scottish Water's core functions.
We also ensure that the market arrangements:
- support a level playing field for all market participants, and
- continue to deliver benefits to customers.
How we manage the market
We regularly monitor the market and from time-to-time take steps to strengthen the market framework. This way, we can be sure that the market remains fit for purpose and works as effectively as possible.
Engaging with market participants
We encourage retailers to take ownership for improving the operation of the market and to work with candour and openness in all of their interactions with customers, WICS as regulator and other stakeholders.
We always consult with industry stakeholders about changes to licence conditions or to the market framework. We regularly consult on any directions we issue aimed at making changes to specific licence conditions or the market framework.
We consult regularly
Find out more in retail consultations and have your say about the future of the market.
Monitoring compliance with licence conditions and standards
To ensure that the market is operating as effectively as possible, we monitor retailers’ compliance with their licence obligations. Under the Water Services etc. Scotland Act 2005, we have specific powers to investigate and, where appropriate, to take enforcement action. We may issue an enforcement notice, impose a financial penalty on a retailer or revoke the licence.
Our enforcement policy provides more information on this area.
We are not responsible for investigating individual customer complaints against retailers that relate, for example, to specific contract, charging or service issues. Such complaints or enquiries should be directed to and resolved with the retailer.
If a customer is still dissatisfied after raising a complaint with the retailer, the complaint can then be referred to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).
Protecting Scottish Water
We have a duty to ensure that the retail market causes no detriment to Scottish Water. In line with this duty, we require all retailers to pre-pay wholesale charges to Scottish Water. This prevents arrears from building up with Scottish Water should a retailer run into financial difficulties. This protection limits the risk to Scottish Water as the wholesale business.
In line with our duty to promote the interest of customers, we have put measures in place to protect customers.
All retailers are required to offer a default range and quality of retail services at regulated default tariffs.
Default standards act as a safety net to ensure that all customers, regardless of their location, receive an appropriate minimum level of service.
Wholesale charges set in line with principles of charging and part of this there are harmonised wholesale charges that retailer is required to pay Scottish Water approved by WICS in line with its price determination.
A deemed contract applies in the interim when a customer is using water or sewerage services but has not agreed a contract with a retailer.
Under a deemed contract, a customer cannot be charged more than the default maximum tariff. They must also be given at least the default minimum level of service in line with the published default tariffs. The terms and conditions that will apply during the period of a deemed contract are set out in a published scheme.
Provider of last resort
There is a provider of last resort mechanism in place to ensure that, if a retailer was to cease trading, customers can be reallocated to an alternative retailer. This ensures continuity of services at all times.