The water industry could be blown wide open for competition under plansbeing proposed by the Government in May to deregulate the water industry.
Centrica-owned British Gas is already gearing up to supply water to itscustomers towards the end of 2003, and other utility companies areconsidering offering branded tap water to customers.
At present a company can only enter the industry if it sets up the water supply infrastructure, such as treatment and pipes, and consumers are notm free to switch their water company, as they are their gas and electricity suppliers.
British Gas, which has set up a team to look at opportunities in the water market, has previously lobbied for retail competition in the water industry.
Head of the water project team at British Gas Derek Meachem says: “We want to bring our experiences from the energy market to the water sector and give water customers better value for money. This falls in line with our strategy of developing a one-stop shop for all household essentials.” British Gas already offers gas, electricity, telephone and home services such as boiler repairs.
Under the Government proposal, the water companies will remain responsible for the treatment, distribution, ownership and maintenance of water while the retail companies will be responsible for marketing, billing, pricing and customer services.
The consultation paper has been presented to water regulator Ofwat and existing water companies.