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Water Act 2014

Section 16: Charges schemes

118.The section substitutes subsections (6) – (6C) for subsections (6) to (9) of section 143 of the WIA. This removes the requirement that undertakers’ charges schemes do not take effect until approved by Ofwat. However, undertakers will be required to make their charges schemes in accordance with enforceable rules which Ofwat may produce under section 143B. There are additional requirements in section 143(6) that charges schemes must comply with. New section 143(6A) to (6C) require Ofwat to issue rules requiring undertakers to consult the Consumer Council for Water when producing and revising their charges schemes.

119.Subsection (2) inserts new sections 143B to143E into the WIA. New section 143B describes the rules and section 143C sets out the process by which the rules are to be produced. Ofwat is required to revise the rules, where necessary, if the Secretary of State or the Welsh Ministers issue revised charging guidance under new section 143D (see below and also see section 38 of this Act which inserts section 144ZE of the WIA (general guidance on charges)). also gives Ofwat a power of direction, enforceable under section 18 for when Ofwat thinks an undertaker is not acting in accordance with the rules. The direction might, for example, direct that schemes be replaced the following charging year or, if absolutely necessary, in year, or to take such other action as is appropriate – for example for the undertaker to conduct better research into its customer base.

120.New section 143B(7) reproduces the effect of the provision in previous section 143(9) that Ofwat cannot exercise this power for the purpose of limiting the total revenues of relevant undertakers from charges fixed by, or in accordance, with charges schemes.

121.New section 143C requires Ofwat to consult relevant persons on its rules in draft. In making the rules, Ofwat must have regard to guidance which the Secretary of State and the Welsh Ministers must produce on the content of Ofwat’s rules (see below and also see section 38 of this Act which inserts section 144ZE of the WIA (general guidance on charges)). Ofwat must specify the consultation period in which consultees may comment. Within 28 days from the end of that consultation period, the Secretary of State or the Welsh Ministers may direct Ofwat not to issue the rules where the rules affect undertakers wholly or mainly in England or Wales respectively. The rules may not be published before these 28 days have elapsed.

122.New section 143D outlines the procedure that Ofwat must follow when it considers that revisions it intends to make to rules are minor or urgent in nature.

123.New section 143E permits the Secretary of State and the Welsh Ministers to produce charging guidance to Ofwat on charges for undertakers wholly or mainly in England or Wales respectively. The Secretary of State and the Welsh Ministers are required to consult each other and relevant persons on their respective guidance.

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