The Customer Forum was established through an agreement between the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, Scottish Water and Consumer Futures Unit at Citizens Advice Scotland, each of which played a unique role within the price setting process.
The Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS)
The Commission is the economic regulator of the Scottish water industry. It is a non-departmental public body acting independently of Ministers with a statutory duty to promote the interests of customers. Its role is to manage an effective regulatory framework which encourages the Scottish water industry to provide a high-quality service and value for money.
The Commission holds the statutory responsibility to set prices for water and wastewater services that deliver Scottish Ministers’ objectives for the water industry at the lowest reasonable overall cost. The price setting process takes place every five years. The Commission decided to establish the Customer Forum to bring the voice of customers directly into the price setting process.
Scottish Water is the sole provider of water and sewerage services in Scotland for all domestic customers connected to the network. Business and public sector customers have a different arrangement. Since 1 April 2008, Scottish Water has been the wholesaler of water and sewerage services in Scotland’s competitive retail market – the world’s first, and to date only, competitive water services market. Multiple retailers then compete, to supply water and wastewater services to Scotland’s 130,000 business and public sector customers.
The focus of the price setting process is the funding of Scottish Water’s core business. Scottish Water must ensure that it is fully funded to meet the demands of Scotland’s water and wastewater service users. . Much of this focuses upon how much Scottish Water will need to spend maintaining the current network and treatment works, and how much Scottish Water will need to spend on building new parts of the network and new treatment works. In determining charging levels and considering how much projects will cost Scottish Water has to be mindful of its obligations to meet drinking water and environmental discharge regulations.
The Forum will work with Scottish Water to ensure that the customers’ voice is taken into account – alongside other obligations – in determining future investment priorities and therefore, future charging levels.
Citizens Advice Scotland
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), our 61 member Citizen Advice Bureaux (CAB), the Citizen Advice consumer helpline, and the Extra Help Unit, form Scotland’s largest independent advice network. Advice provided by our service is free, independent, confidential, impartial and available to everyone. Our self-help website provides information on rights and helps people solve their problems.
In 2014-15 the Citizens Advice Service network helped over 323,000 clients in Scotland alone and dealt with over one million advice issues. With support from the network clients had financial gains of over £124 million and the Scottish zone of our self-help website received approximately 5.4 million unique page views.
Our aim within the water industry is to challenge and shape policy to ensure it reflects the needs of consumers. CAS is a statutory consultee in relation to a number of policy and practice areas in the water industry and works closely with stakeholders across the industry.