From April next year, non-household consumers will be able to choose and switch their water supplier without being required to use a minimum amount of water as is currently the case.

This is a major change in the water sector and will increase competition between suppliers for customers whilst giving customers more choice.

The shadow market has now opened in relation to the introduction of full non-household retail competition. This is a significant development in the path to market opening in April.

The shadow market opened on 3 October and sees companies now being able to test their systems and processes, including meter reading, tariff changes and changing supplier. Companies cannot however switch customers or transfer money during this trial-period.

It is estimated that when the non-household retail competition changes come into effect in 2017, 1.2 million non-household customers will be able to switch their water and wastewater supplier.

Market Operator Services Limited will act as the markets ‘clearing house’ and will enable customer switching, will log transactions, record water usage and provide for the settling of accounts between companies. It is hoped that lessons learned during this trial-run will ultimately help create better processes and an operationally proven and stable central system for a seamless transition when the market goes-live in April 2017.