COVID-19: Information for businesses in England

Ofwat, the water regulator in England, is continually monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, working with the wider water industry to support customers during the outbreak. Here’s an outline of the changes that have been introduced for customers in England and how we can help you during this time.

Changes to support business customers

In April, Ofwat advised that businesses closed to workers, the public or visitors and with a significant reduction (95% or more) in water use as a result of the outbreak should be treated as temporarily vacant and wouldn’t be charged during the initial crisis period. Businesses confirmed as temporarily closed have therefore not been billed during this period and are currently classed as vacant (closed). Protection from debt enforcement, interest on late payments and disconnection was also put in place relating to bills issued from 1 March 2020 until 31 May 2020.

Potential charges during temporary closure

Ofwat advised that charges should be applied by wholesalers for water use during temporary closure where the level of use is more than 5% of usual consumption. Depending on the level of water use between 16 March and 31 July, wholesalers may apply charges if use is over the limit set by Ofwat. Note that if you have unexpected consumption during your closure it may mean you have a leak - please let us know if you suspect a leak to see how we may be able to help.

Latest guidelines

Following the latest government guidance about when businesses can reopen, Ofwat confirmed further changes to support business customers, effective from 1 June 2020. You can read more about these changes in Ofwat’s Customer Protection Code of Practice.

We’ve summarised these changes on this page which specifically relate to businesses that are COVID-19 Affected Customers or customers that are open that have difficulty paying.

What is a COVID-19 Affected Customer?

Ofwat defines a COVID-19 Affected Customer as a business that has all sites confirmed as closed due to COVID-19.

Following the recent changes, we’ve further updated our terms to help you deal with the effects of the pandemic on your business if you’re a COVID-19 Affected Customer.

These terms relate to how we’re dealing with disconnection, late payments and non-payment of bills during the crisis for COVID-19 Affected Customers. In summary, from 1 June 2020 (and until advised by Ofwat), if all your sites are confirmed as closed due to COVID-19 we won’t:

  • serve disconnection notices for the non-payment of bills or invoices;
  • attempt to recover any default interest or impose late payment charges for non-payment of invoices that were issued from 1 June 2020; and
  • enforce the non-payment of invoices.

These measures initially were in place for a limited time (until 31 July 2020) to help you during the outbreak. Ofwat reviewed these measures in July and have elected to continue some of these measures on a longer term basis. Our terms will revert to normal when Ofwat advised these measures have ended.

Making payments during the crisis period

Please continue to pay if you can

We realise these are very difficult times and you’ll be concerned about your business. While we know your water bill isn’t your top priority, please pay it if you can. By paying your bill, we’ll be able to cover your wholesale charges and help maintain critical services to businesses at a time when water is vital.

What if I can’t pay my bill?

If you’re experiencing financial difficulty due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for our COVID-19 repayment scheme if you can’t pay your bill. Please get in touch to discuss your situation and see how we might be able to help.

  • Find us on web chat
  • Email
  • Call on 0333 207 9283

Live web chat is usually a quick way to get in touch with us. Our web chat and phone lines are open Monday to Thursday 08:45-17:30 (17.00 on Fridays). We’re closed on weekends and bank holidays (England only).

If you think you need additional support, Business Debt Line provides free, impartial and confidential advice, with specific guidance on dealing with the impacts of COVID-19.

What is the COVID-19 repayment scheme?

Our scheme allows you to affordably repay any water or wastewater charges if you’re having difficulty paying due to COVID-19. If you’re eligible for the scheme, we’ll work with you to agree a payment arrangement that’s suited to your circumstances.

If your business is closed and you’ve got an outstanding balance
We can arrange for you to repay your balance with affordable monthly Direct Debit payments over an agreed timescale.

If your business is open
If your business is trading and you’re experiencing financial difficulties, we can arrange a monthly Direct Debit. This means you can pay for ongoing consumption and spread your existing balance over a timescale that’s more affordable and manageable.

Please be aware that we can still apply interest and late payment charges (if applicable) for non-payment of bills issued before 1 March 2020. You can see our revised Deemed Contract here.

Help us to help you

Please help us to manage your account more accurately during this time. If your business has closed and you haven’t yet been in touch, or your business is reopening soon then please let us know. Here’s what you need to do to help keep your account accurate and update to date. Mostly, we just need you to complete a short form and provide a meter reading (if possible).

Keeping up to date

We regularly update our website with relevant information and advice to support you. Please take a look at our dedicated COVID-19 page and Q&A for answers to various queries you may find useful. You can check back anytime for updates.