Water consumer watchdog gets business retail market panel voting rights
Customers will have a representative with voting rights on the Codes Panel in time for the next Panel meeting on 24 September. The objective is to strengthen the focus on customers in Panel discussions and decision making.
Last week, Ofwat approved (in a slightly modified form) a change (CPM013) to the Market Arrangements Code to include a Customer Representative Panel Member, defined as a “qualified individual nominated from CCWater, or any successor organisation to CCWater, and appointed by the Panel chairman to represent the views of non-household customers”.
The Panel had recommended the change be rejected in July; while seven members voted in favour, two were against and one abstained. However, Ofwat decided to approve the change. Of those who did not support it Ofwat said:
• contrary to there being no benefit as the objectors claimed, the move has the “potential to strengthen the focus on the customer voice in Panel’s decision making,” given the individual will have specialist customer knowledge; and
• the individual as an expert is “very much a part of the industry”; – the objectors claimed the appointment “dilutes the votes of Panel members employed within the industry”.
Ofwat added that while the change was “a positive first step” in bolstering the customer voice, alone it would not be enough. “Therefore we recommend the Panel considers what further steps may be required to ensure that customer impacts (including the impacts on different types of customer where appropriate) are brought out more explicitly in Panel discussions and decision making. Given the significance of this issue we suggest the Panel considers this as a matter of priority.”
Hitherto, the Panel has comprised 13 voting members: three representatives for each wholesalers, associated retailers, unassociated retailers and independents, plus a chair (who under current practice usually abstains from voting). CCWater has been the Customer Representative Affiliated Member, entitled to attend meetings and contribute, but not vote.