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As inflation rises and food prices continue to climb, many households across the UK have made the decision to go without broadband this year. 

According to a survey conducted by Citizens Advice, up to one million individuals have canceled their broadband subscriptions in the past year due to the high cost of living, attempting to save money, and as part of their debt consolidation. The charity suggests that these individuals could have benefited from cheaper social tariffs or special low-cost packages. However, watchdog Ofcom has issued a warning, stating that 4.3 million eligible people are missing out on these deals.

In response to the situation, the government has collaborated with Ofcom and the industry to introduce a variety of products to the market, aiming to encourage the uptake of social tariffs. These affordable options are available in 99% of the UK and start from as low as £10 per month, according to the government's statement.

To simplify the process for benefit claimants signing up for social tariffs, a broadband eligibility checker has been introduced, and major providers such as Sky and Virgin Media have already joined the initiative. 

Despite these efforts, Ofcom's findings reveal that the adoption of social tariffs remains very low, with only about 5% of eligible individuals taking advantage of them. However, this percentage has quadrupled since January of the previous year.

Citizens Advice conducted a survey of 6,000 people, which indicated that those receiving universal credit were six times more likely to have discontinued their broadband services in the past 12 months compared to non-claimants. Moreover, the charity expressed concern that the problem could worsen, as benefit claimants were four times more likely to fall behind on their broadband bills.

Ofcom reports that one in three households in the UK struggles to afford communication services, and they have called on companies to do more to promote social tariffs. Dame Clare Moriarty, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, stated the need for the watchdog to hold firms accountable and improve the uptake of these tariffs. She pointed out that people were being priced out of internet access at an alarming rate, and social tariffs should serve as the industry's safety net.

Other campaigners also highlight the fact that internet access has become an essential utility for day-to-day life. Those who cannot afford data face challenges in managing benefits, applying for jobs online, and benefiting from cheaper online prices, further exacerbating their financial difficulties.

The government claims that its job centre staff regularly guide claimants to relevant information on social tariffs, and individuals can access computers for their job searches at local job centres. Citizens Advice shared the story of Rob, a 63-year-old who has been unable to afford broadband since 2012. Rob explained that not having internet access at home significantly hampers his job applications and limits his access to services such as his GP, online help, and shopping.

The government highlights various measures it has taken to assist those who find broadband unaffordable. In June, after negotiations with the government, leaders from major broadband and mobile operators agreed to a set of public commitments aimed at supporting customers facing difficulties paying their bills. 

However, the Digital Poverty Alliance, echoing the concerns of Citizens Advice, notes that while the uptake of social tariffs is slowly improving, it still falls far short of the levels necessary to ensure digital inclusion for all households. The organisation argues that even with an affordable social tariff, households in severe poverty may still struggle to afford essential connectivity.


The forecast from Cornwall Insight comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the energy bill help, which was originally expected to last for two years, would be cut in April.

The UK Government said the the most vulnerable families would continue to be protected from increasing energy prices.

Hunt announced the change to the energy price support as part of measures put in place to help families save money following the big hole in the public finances the Government's mini-budget left.

The Chancellor said on Monday that "it would not be responsible to continue exposing public finances to unlimited volatility in international gas prices".


Yad Jaura, Product Marketing Manager at Netcall, explores the necessary changes utility providers must make to better manage payments in a time of economic turbulence.

Missed payments and managing payment support are part and parcel for any utility provider. However, in today’s economic climate, more people than ever before are running into financial difficulties, meaning payments are getting increasingly hard to manage. In fact, a recent Financial Conduct Authority survey revealed that 12 million people in Britain will struggle to pay bills as the pandemic continues to wreak economic havoc. Water companies are facing the brunt of this – as a basic human right, providers are unable to disconnect domestic customers who are struggling to make payments. This puts water at the bottom of the pile, while other utilities such as electricity and gas take priority.

Now, as England navigates through a second national lockdown, which will see consumers and businesses faced with further financial ‘cliff edges’, issues surrounding payment support will only continue to grow. While the government has responded with a number of financial support systems, such as the furlough scheme and mortgage payment holidays, plans for extension are changing in real-time. However, these will at some point come to an end – which will leave consumers to face the stark consequences of the UK recession.

Businesses are also struggling. For many, employees have been working remotely for some time now, so paying for water for an empty office when there are more pressing costs to manage can seem unimportant. With the pandemic continuing to batter usual trading figures, Christmas trading, which many businesses rely on for growth, is likely to be severely impacted, meaning additional financial strain ahead for already-stretched companies.

The challenge for utility providers

While consumers and businesses are struggling, utility providers, which keep our nation running, will struggle too if unable to recoup payments. Water companies need to work with customers to make it as easy as possible to access payment support. Those who don’t will risk being relegated to the bottom of the pile when it comes to the customer's list of creditor priorities. The reality, however, is that current repayment systems aren’t often up to scratch. Many water companies require customers to print off and complete multi-page forms, disclosing their current circumstances to arrange a suitable payment plan. As well as being overly complex, this process can take weeks if not months to process, meaning further delays for both the customer and provider.

Water companies need to work with customers to make it as easy as possible to access payment support.

There is also the issue of changing government guidance for utility providers. Many are currently being encouraged to consider payment holidays and payment matching, while also helping customers pay their bills through WaterSure, Social Tariffs, and other affordability schemes. This will add extra complexity to existing processes, which are often not built to enable such flexibility.

Looking to innovation

In order to overcome these challenges, utility providers need to implement innovative solutions that allow them to build automated, digital platforms that not only make it easier for them to manage payment support processes internally, but also improve the customer experience. Flexible, quick-to-implement Platform as a Service (PaaS) technologies, such as low-code, can help utility providers respond with agility, enabling them to build platforms accessible from a range of devices to access information, check bills and payment statuses, and set up payment plans. Low-code enables businesses to easily make changes to a process dependent on changing government guidance, due to its agile nature.

When combined with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technologies, systems built on low-code can also help to gather information from customer relationship management (CRM) systems about customers who are having problems with payment. RPA technology is particularly beneficial as it can be implemented over existing systems and data, minimising the disruption of current IT infrastructure.

A long-term solution

Being able to modify processes quickly and simply is an important requirement in today’s volatile climate. Moving forward, utility providers must look towards a long-term solution that can help both customers and their own bottom line. Again, low-code technology can help here, as it provides utility companies with the ability to easily implement change, adapt and scale internal and external processes according to business needs, at no additional cost.


While water providers do not have the same considerations as consumer companies in terms of losing household customers to competing brands, incentives such as Ofwat’s service incentive mechanism mean that customer experience should be front of mind, even when dealing with re-payments. Financial rewards are provided to companies with the best customer service ratings – something that water companies simply cannot afford to miss out on in today’s economic climate. Also, while household customers may not be able to switch between water providers, businesses certainly can. Being ranked highly could therefore provide utility companies with a competitive advantage, and help to attract future prospects.

Supporting customers through financial turbulence

As we continue to navigate through the pandemic, managing payment support will be a relatable issue across a multitude of businesses, including banks, credit card companies, landlords and legal companies. The end goal for these companies should be to provide a seamless customer journey that enables consumers to manage repayments easily and effectively. By introducing simpler processes, as well as managing existing repayments, providers can also help customers tackle debt much earlier – before it becomes a problem. For utility providers this means managing the flow of information, whatever its origin and destination, and being approachable on a range of communication channels.

Finally, with young people having been reported as the hardest hit by the financial squeeze of lockdown, businesses should therefore ensure their contact centre offering integrates with a range of communication platforms – from chatbots to social media. Especially as two-in-five consumers now prefer to use self-service channels rather than phoning a call centre. Understanding customer preferences and building solutions that enable companies to manage this while recouping payments will be essential in the months ahead.

Daniel Groves outlines five key steps SMEs can take to keep their finances secure.

Money problems come in all shapes and sizes, but more often than not the biggest financial issue which can make or break a small business is cash flow. Studies have shown that more than 80% of small businesses fold as a result of poor cash flow. These mistakes are easy to avoid, if you plan for them before they become a problem.

Make sure bills are paid on time

It might sound obvious, but never underestimate how important it is to pay your bills on time. Not only does this mean they won’t go up in cost due to interest charges but missed payments can also affect your credit rating, storing up all manner of issues further down the line. 

Technology is your friend in making bill-paying as frictionless as possible. For regular bills, set up a Direct Debit to save you time and money. If you’re unsure what digital tools your bank has to help you pay your bills, talk to them. It is in their best interest to make sure that you are on top of your funds.

Save for emergencies

In these increasingly uncertain times, it is vital that you put some money aside for unforeseen emergencies. It is in your best interest to have an emergency rainy day fund. Problems will - and do - come up, and often the best way to keep your options open when trouble strikes is to have funds readily available. A good way of doing this with minimal effort is taking 10% of your profit each month and moving it to a separate bank account.

Now is also a prudent time to look at your company's outgoing expenditures and cut back. Instead of travelling for a face-to-face meeting, save time and money (and stay safe) by hosting that meeting online. You can then take those saved expenses and place them in your emergency fund account, away from the money you use for running the day-to-day.

Problems will - and do - come up, and often the best way to keep your options open when trouble strikes is to have funds readily available.

Keep a close eye on payments owed to you

It is very easy when running a small business to get bogged down with the day-to-day operation and not keep track of unpaid customer bills. Sending out an invoice is one thing, but it’s quite another to make sure it has been paid on time and to chase if it hasn’t. There are great tools and software which can automatically send reminders to chase late payments, helping you avoid escalating it to a legal issue. This, in itself, can be a lengthy and expensive process. 

You are running a business, not a charity. So make sure you are paid what you have worked or you won’t be in business for very long. 

Get help if you need it

Staying afloat can be extremely hard for a small business in any industry - asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. If you’re struggling to chase payments or keep track of them, it’s better that you get help (either from technology or a trusted adviser), so you can focus on creating value for your customers. Financial worries can put real strain on business owners if they don’t have experience trying to manage it. 

 “Whatever you do, please don't do it alone,” says Jeremy Frost of Frost Group, a company specialising in business advice for companies struggling. “It can be a frightening time for you but it is possible to solve business problems, especially cash flow issues. If you concentrate too much on the minute details of a problem you miss the big picture.”

Track your financial statements

It is key that you pay close attention to your financial statements. Carefully follow what is going out and what is coming in. If you don't know how to read a financial statement, you can use online guidance to learn as soon as possible. Alternatively, you could employ someone to read it for you if it’s really not one of your strengths or you want to free up some mental processing power to continue to grow your business. Do this by hiring a freelance account manager, rather than bringing a full-time financial team in-house. 


Final thoughts

It is better to be in control of your finances at all times so that you can react and solve any problems before they escalate. Every company will have one month where their outgoings surpass their incomings but it is up to you to see it, identify why that has happened and make sure it is not a regular occurrence. Don’t assume these issues will just go away. 

Many landlords require their tenants to have renter’s insurance policies and will request proof of them before you sign your lease. Not all of them will require it, however. If there’s one thing to take from this article, it should be that all renters should have a policy in case something happens.

Renter’s insurance does more than protect property: it offers protection for costly circumstances that you may not be able to foresee. Renter’s insurance should be part of any savvy renter’s game plan. Knowing what renter’s insurance policies cover can help anyone decide how much they need, even though there’s no-set-in stone answer. Everyone’s situation is different, so their need for this insurance is different too.

What Is Covered by Renter’s Insurance?

If you’re wondering, “How much renter’s insurance do I need?” you need to know why people need these policies in the first place. The main reason people opt for renter’s insurance is to protect their property. Personal belongings outside and inside your apartment are covered by renter’s insurance, but that’s not all.

In the event that you have to leave your rental home or apartment for a while, renter’s insurance policies also cover your living expenses while you’re staying in another place. These circumstances may not be foreseeable and could include an infestation, a fire, or other damage. Living expenses can become untenable in these situations without renter’s insurance.

How Much Renter’s Insurance Should You Get?

The first step to figuring out how much renter’s insurance you need is to calculate the value of your personal possessions and compare it to your budget. At that point, you can compare the quotes of several insurance companies to the value that you calculate in your personal property.

From a policy as low as the average renter’s insurance plans, which cost around $15 per month, you can get tens of thousands of dollars of personal liability coverage and property coverage.

The first step to figuring out how much renter’s insurance you need is to calculate the value of your personal possessions and compare it to your budget.

What Types of Coverage are there?

There are three types of coverage included in renter’s insurance policies. To what extent a policy includes each type determines its value. These coverage types include personal property, loss-of-use, and personal liability coverage. Ask yourself: how much of each type does a typical policy contain? This is important to know so you can spot plans that are expensive for their coverage amounts and those that are a true value.

The average renter’s insurance policy offers around $30,000 in personal property coverage, 40% of the personal property’s value in loss-of-use coverage, and $100,000 in personal liability coverage.

Deductibles are another important factor when choosing a policy. If you don’t already know, a deductible refers to the amount of damage you have to pay for yourself before an insurance policy kicks in. These exist in healthcare policies and it’s no different for renter’s insurance.

An average or acceptable deductible for these policies would be around $500. These policies are considered the best value for those that want renter’s insurance for coverage but aren’t necessarily worried about a specific accident. Those that want a lower deductible should expect to pay a much higher per month premium.

The disadvantage of cheaper policies is that the deductible is much higher, which is fine until you have to pay it. There’s also not much of a drop in the price per month for losing 50% or more of your coverage amount. A few dollars less a month will lower your coverage amounts considerably. This is why policies priced at or near the competitive average are often the most desirable.


The Takeaway

Renter’s insurance policies involve three different types of coverage, including personal property coverage, personal liability coverage, and loss-of-use coverage. Knowing how much renter’s insurance you need depends on the value of your belongings compared to the needs of your situation.

Since the value of renter’s insurance policies decreases drastically with only a small reduction in the cost per month, average renter’s insurance policies are often the most desirable. Use this information to conduct more research into available companies to find the right renter’s insurance policy for you.

The average American has a credit score of 704. If your Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) score is around that number, that’s fantastic. But even though that’s a pretty healthy figure, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. And if your score is lower than that, don’t lose heart. You can do plenty to bring up your credit score - it all boils down to making the right financial choices over time.

  1. Get A Copy Of Your Credit Report

If your credit score is lower than expected and you’re not sure why, it’s a good idea to get a copy of your credit report. This document spells out all your credit-related activities. You should be able to get a free copy of your credit report each year and Best way to repair credit from either Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Go through the document thoroughly to check for errors or fraudulent activity. If you don’t find any, you should be able to find out what’s affecting your score, such as late payments, repossessions, and so forth. By having a clear picture of your credit standing, you’ll have a better idea of how to improve it.

  1. Pay Your Bills On Time

Your payment history shows potential creditors how reliable of a borrower you are, as they’re indicative of how you’ll be paying in the future. Doing something as simple as paying bills on time can make a significant positive difference to your credit score. Conversely, paying late — or less than the agreed-upon amount — can damage your credit score.

Your credit card bills are the most important when it comes to your credit score, but this can also be affected by your other bills, such as student loans, rent, and even your phone bill. To make sure that you don’t miss any deadlines, you can set up automatic payments or calendar reminders to help you stay on schedule. If you’re behind on payments, try to catch up as soon as you can.

  1. Improve Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Your credit utilization ratio (or credit utilization rate) measures the balance you owe on your credit cards relative to your credit limit. If your credit limit is $10,000 and your current balance is $5,000, your credit utilization is 50 percent. A high utilization ratio shows that you could be overspending, which is why it can damage your score.

To improve your credit utilization ratio, the best thing to do is paying off your debt. And if you have any unused credit cards, keep them open — especially if you’re not paying any annual fees. You can lower your ratio by getting a higher credit limit. There are two easy ways to do this: either by simply asking your credit card provider for a higher limit, or even applying for another card. (However, it’s important to note that this could tempt you to spend even more than you can afford to pay back, wreaking more havoc on your credit score.)

Your payment history and credit utilization ratios are two of the most important factors when calculating your credit score. Together, they make up to 70 percent of your credit score, so keeping these two in check is crucial. It takes time for your credit score to improve — late payments, for example, stay on your credit report for seven years. But the sooner you get started, the better.

It is essential that you improve your credit score prior to applying for a mortgage in order to boost your chances of getting one.

Here are a few ways that you can bump up your credit rating with the help from Howells Solicitors:

  1. Pay Your Monthly Bills on Time

The first, and most obvious, point to make would be to start paying your bills on time, or in advance. This is one of the biggest contributing factors to getting a good credit rating. Paying your bills late will give your bank a reason to tell everyone that you’re not trustworthy enough to lend money to, and therefore bring your score down.

  1. Pay Your Phone Bill

Again, not too far away from point one but your monthly phone bill contributes heavily to your credit score. While it may only be £20/30 a month, ensure that there is enough money in your bank to pay this.

Usually, network providers give you a few days’ notice if the payment does not go through as they are aware that there could be a number of contributing factors (closed bank, new bank, fraud, etc.), but you should realistically always leave enough money in your account to pay this by direct debit. The smoother the transaction goes, the higher the rating gets.

  1. Use Your Credit Card

If you don’t have a credit card, then it might be worth getting one. If you make small purchases on your credit card and pay them back on time, or before the due date, it shows your bank that you’re reliable and can pay back things on time.

Think of it this way; would you be more likely to lend money to someone that has no history of paying things back, so you have no idea whether you’ll get the money back or not, or more likely to lend money to someone that you know has a great history of paying people back on time?

  1. Sign-Up to Credit Updates

You should sign-up to a free credit report checker, such as Experian, which sends you monthly emails. This way, you will be made aware of any changes and can dispute any errors that have been made that reflects your credit in a bad light, however there is no need to run multiple, full credit checks

  1. Close Unused Accounts

Closing any unused bank accounts can improve your credit score. If you opened a bank account back in the day, and you haven’t touched it since, then take the money out that is currently in there and close the account. If you have more than one credit card, then you should consolidate the debt on just one.

For further information on whether your credit score will affect your chances of getting a mortgage, or further information on how you can improve your credit score, check out this FAQ Series by Howells Solicitors, or contact the team for guidance using the contact form on their website.

Recent independent research of UK employees commissioned by expenses management software company Expend has highlighted that Generation Z and Generation Y employees are the most negatively impacted by facilitating their employers’ expenses. Over a quarter (27%) of Generation Z employees (18-24 year olds) have not been able to pay off credit card bills because they have outstanding company expenses due to them from their employer.

This appears to be making younger employees the least tolerant of existing processes for expenses - 82% of UK Generation Z employees find being out of pocket from expenses very unfair and 42% would move jobs because of a poor expense policy.

The average amount of debt for a University leaver is now £50,000, and yet the average starting salary for most graduates is £19,000 - 22,000. According to the ONS, wage growth slipped to 2.7% from 2.8% in the three months to May 2018. However, despite the slowdown in wage growth and increased cost of living, young employees are still expected to float expenses for the business. These factors combined mean that younger workers are more financially sensitive than ever before, and yet are still expected to pay their employer’s expenses and go out of pocket each month, which can have a significant impact on their personal finances.

Expend’s independent research, which was commissioned in conjunction with OnePoll, showed the scale of this impact on employees’ finances and willingness to circumvent expense policies. Out of all age groups, Generation Z workers are most likely to circumvent the expenses policies of their employer, with over a quarter (27%) stating they would spend more than they normally would to make a company expense worthwhile, if they could get away with it. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) of Generation Z employees stated they would profit from business expenses if they could get away with it.

The picture for Generation Y/Millennials (25-34 year olds) isn’t much better. Research from independent think tank The Resolution Foundation has shown that UK millennials are now some of the worst off financially in the developed world, only behind Greece. The home ownership rate in their late 20s, at 33%, is half that for the baby boomers at the same age (60%). Our research showed this age group would be the least inclined out of all respondents to take a job if it had a poor expense policy, with 40.87% saying they wouldn’t.

On the other hand, the older age groups are disproportionately tolerant of the existing system of expense, with the 55+ age group is the least likely to circumvent expenses because of a poor expense policy, and only 4.90% saying they would expense items they shouldn’t if they could get away with it.

Johnny Vowles, CEO of Expend said, “younger employees have a hard deal at the moment with rising living costs, wage growth described as ‘anaemic’ by the ONS and higher than ever student debt. While the current expenses system is just the way things have always been done, for some employees this could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Organisations need to look at how all processes are impacting on their younger workforce, to encourage recruitment of happy workers but also to minimise the business risk. Disenfranchised younger workers more open to circumvent expense policies and profit from them than even before, so employers also need to gain greater oversight over their company finances to protect themselves.”

(Source: Expend)

Recent reports indicate some of the biggest household brands have signed up to a new buying service, by which grocery bills could be cut up to 30%, and the need for supermarkets could be eliminated completely.

Companies such as Unilever, Mars, and Reckitt Benckiser have signed agreements to sell directly to their consumers via a new digital platform and tech company, INS. This could also have a direct impact on how brands are able to use customers’ data for loyalty scheme and rewards.

Here, Rob Meakin, Managing Director at Loyalty Pro, comments for Finance Monthly: “The move by brands to offer a more convenient, cheaper service to consumers and cut out supermarkets is a clear attempt to gain some of the market share – and power – of grocery leaders like Tesco and Sainsbury’s and now Amazon, of course. In being able to gather data from their customers more easily, brands are going to create recommendations, rewards and loyalty schemes based on consumer buying patterns. With consumers’ allegiance shifting more away from brands and towards service (same-day and even same-hour delivery), this is an opportunity for brands to reclaim customer loyalty and our advice to retailers is to watch this development very closely and make sure they are prepared to fight for their consumer.  

“As data becomes the fuel for any business, retailers need to be actively trying to grow their customer loyalty by utilising the customer data at their fingertips to offer rewards schemes in the same way brands are now likely to. Loyalty points and rewards are a currency themselves, and with household budgets squeezed, consumers will be looking for the best possible deal. They also want to feel valued wherever they shop, rewarded for their custom and loyalty through points, offers and even charitable donations. We live in a society where loyalty can appear dead, but the truth is that it’s simply changed. Consumers still value great service and that can absolutely be delivered by anyone – from a single store high street retailer to a multinational online service. The key is to use data to understand what they want and deliver an experience using personalised and relevant communications which will encourage customer loyalty.  With brands about to cut out the middle-man, no retailer can afford to rest on their laurels.”

In light of the recent water market deregulation, Bob Millar, Water Specialist at Inprova Energy, discusses here with Finance Monthly the key opportunities to be considered for businesses, with the potential to save both time and money.

Businesses in England of whatever size can now shop around for their water and wastewater services in the same way as procuring energy. This offers the potential to get a better deal and improve service levels.

England's regional water monopolies were broken up on 1st April 2017 with the start of water market deregulation. These existing water companies remain responsible for wholesale services, i.e. the infrastructure that brings water to your site and removes waste water and drainage; but they must now compete in the open market for your retail water and wastewater business (including billing and other customer facing services).

This offers more choice for business water consumers of all sizes, whether single or multi-site. For those organisations with sites in Scotland, where the retail water market has been fully open since 2008, there's an opportunity to consolidate retail arrangements under one retailer, with potentially one monthly bill. 130,000 Scottish businesses have already had the freedom to switch supplier and some have cut their water bills by as much as 25%.

There are no changes yet in place for Wales or Northern Ireland, but some suppliers will be able to offer consolidated billing for multi-site customers across the UK, which would simplify and reduce the costs of administration.

Customers with the largest water requirements (in excess of 50,000m3 per year) may be eligible to ‘self-supply’ by applying for a retail water licence directly from their wholesaler.

Is it worth switching water supplier?

Initially, cost savings on tariffs in England will be minimal (unlike when the market opened in Scotland), but this is expected to improve after 2020 when the 2019 Ofwat price review will be implemented. Whilst some sites will gain direct procurement savings, the biggest benefits are likely to come from improved service levels and water efficiency, which can deliver considerable cost savings.

If you have the administrative challenge of looking after water arrangements at multiple sites, with responsibility for multiple water bills from multiple suppliers, then consolidation can simplify this process to one single bill from one supplier.

The savings of consolidated billing have been modelled by Policy Exchange, the independent think tank, which estimated that a customer with more than 4,000 paper bills a year from various sites would save £80,000 to £200,000 per year in administration costs by moving to electronic billing from a single supplier.

Whether you proceed with switching retailer or not, it makes sense to cleanse your existing data. This includes collating accurate details of your sites, meters and volumes for a ‘hassle-free’ tendering process.  Look out for Supply Point ID’s (SPIDs) on you recent invoices – these are the reference numbers which the market will use to identify your supplies (just like an MPAN in the electricity market).

If you are using a reputable broker, they will conduct the data management for you.  To start the process you will need to supply information of what water you are using and where, along with a letter of authority and at least one, but ideally 12 months' copies of bills.

While collating data, ensure that missing information is retrieved, and that any underpayments or overpayments are rectified. By validating your bills and optimising your tariffs, you will potentially reduce costs when it comes to tendering for retail services.

Reputable brokers will undertake a revenue recovery audit on your behalf to identify potential historic overcharges.  Billing errors are not uncommon, so you might receive a windfall rebate or lower ongoing costs.

With accurate data and full visibility of your water consumption, you will be in the best position to go out to tender.

Water efficiency

A carefully considered water efficiency strategy can also help you to comply with current and future legislation, reduce your carbon footprint, improve environmental performance and generate positive PR.

By comparing your water consumption against other sites (either internal or external), you can gain a better understanding of your water consumption profile and whether there is scope for improving efficiency.

Poor water efficiency is costing British business more than £3.5 billion a year, so leak detection coupled with water efficiency measures can pay rich dividends.

Water saving measures might include using automatic meter reading (AMR) technology to monitor consumption; installing flow or pressure controls to regulate water flow; or harvesting rainwater for reuse, many of which require little or no investment and provide rapid payback.

Is it best to wait and see?

There's nothing to lose in exploring a water switch. Even if you remain with your existing retailer, you may gain some added value and get your billing data in order and validated.  Water procurement is much simpler than energy because of a lack of price volatility. Fixed price contracts are, therefore, the norm. Since market rates are unlikely to change significantly until 2020, there's little point in hanging back for better deals to come forward. Meanwhile, it would be sensible to test the market.

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