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These initiatives were driven by Lord Dholakia, and are more likely to reflect personal policy preferences.
MPs who are act as Ministers or Shadow Ministers are generally restricted from performing Commons initiatives other than Urgent Questions.
Lord Dholakia has not been granted any Urgent Questions
Lord Dholakia has not been granted any Adjournment Debates
The Bill failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session. This means the Bill will make no further progress.The 2010-12 session of parliament has prorogued and this Bill will make no further progress. A Bill to amend the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974; and for connected purposes.
First reading took place on 16 January. This stage is a formality that signals the start of the Bill's journey through the Lords.Second reading - the general debate on all aspects of the Bill - is yet to be scheduled. A bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility; and for connected purposes.
Lord Dholakia has not co-sponsored any Bills in the current parliamentary sitting
While there are a range of market codes in place to protect customers, Ofwat does not specifically prohibit retailers from charging customers in advance for the services they provide. Some customers may, for example, have made an active and informed choice to voluntarily enter contractual arrangements with retailers on terms which include some form of advance billing.
However, Ofwat has also taken steps to strengthen the protections for customers on deemed contracts (that is where the customer has not actively negotiated and agreed a contract with their retailer) against non-voluntary changes in their non-price terms, which would include changes in billing arrangements. Following a public consultation, in July 2019 Ofwat published its decision that for customers acquired on retail exit who have not subsequently switched retailer, their terms in the round should leave them no worse off than they were on retail exit.
While the example of advance billing was used as one example of a non-price change that could leave customers worse off, Ofwat’s decision applied more widely to the fair treatment of customers who had not yet engaged in the market. To avoid stifling innovation or preventing retailers from making efficiency enhancing changes that may benefit customers, retailers should be able to alter the non-price terms for customers on deemed contracts so long as they are: transparent about any proposed changes; are able to clearly articulate what the impact on customers will be; and are able to demonstrate to customers why, and how, they will be at least ‘no worse off’ as a result of those changes.
In 2017 Ofwat with KPMG undertook a review of the credit arrangements in the business retail market to establish whether the arrangements created an undue barrier to entry. The review found that, in principle, requiring collateral is not a barrier to entry in and of itself.
Ofwat has supported (and on occasions sponsored) market code amendments aimed at improving transparency and flexibility and reducing barriers to new entrant retailers. For example, Ofwat sponsored a code change to Wholesale Retail Code CPW021 (Negotiating Alternative Eligible Credit Support reasonably and in good faith) implemented in July 2017. This change provided greater certainty on wholesalers’ obligations to negotiate ‘alternative eligible credit support’ and increases the scope for retailers to provide the required eligible credit support via a mechanism which suits their particular circumstances.
In some cases, Ofwat has rejected proposed market code amendments on credit where such proposals are not considered – on the basis of the evidence presented - to better facilitate the principles and objectives of the market codes.
In Ofwat’s ‘review of incumbent company support for effective markets’ published in August 2020, it asked wholesalers to explain their approach to offering alternative credit arrangements and alternative payment terms and the extent to which they tailor their offerings to the characteristics of individual retailers. In its report Ofwat highlighted examples of good practice and where performance could be better. It emphasised that where different retailers have different risk profiles, a wholesaler is able to reflect this by offering these retailers’ different or tailored terms, so long as the differences in terms objectively reflect the differences in risk. Ofwat plans to provide further guidance on this in early 2021.
Since market opening, Ofwat has published annual reports on the business retail market, including with a focus on customer outcomes and benefits delivered to customers, including SME customers – see:
Its most recent report, on the third year of the market (2019-20) noted that just over half (54%) of small/medium SMEs (10-249 employees), and 58% of micro-businesses (0-9 employees) are aware they can choose their retailer. The majority (91%) of all business customers who had switched retailer or renegotiated a new deal with their existing retailer in the 12 months to spring 2020 reported that they had received some form of benefit as a result of switching or re-negotiating.
Concerning switching rates, around 3.1% of small/medium SMEs (10-249 employees) and 4% of micro-businesses (0-9 employees) switched retailer or renegotiated a new deal with their existing retailer in the 12 months to spring 2020, compared to 6.2% (small/medium SMEs) and 3.6% (micro-businesses) in the 12 months to spring 2019.
Ofwat’s role is to promote competition through a well-functioning market where that will further the interests of customers. In furthering this role, since the market has opened the regulator has explored barriers to market entry, for example, credit security arrangements for smaller new entrants. Where appropriate, Ofwat has supported (and on occasions sponsored) market code amendments aimed at promoting new entrants to the market.
Over the past three years, we have seen greater choice for business customers with around twenty retailers operating in England. In addition, a number of larger customers have become licensed to operate as self-suppliers. The self-supply model enables customers to have greater control over their data, and has delivered price and water efficiency savings. In 2019/20, an additional three self-supply licences were granted bringing the total to 12 as at end March 2020.
Ofwat keeps under review the use and impact of Parent Company Guarantees (PCGs) in the water business retail market. For example, it has previously reviewed the use of PCGs in the market and wrote an open letter (in January 2019) to retailers and their associated companies reminding them of their obligations under the market codes and competition law on this.
Use of PCGs, or other forms of intra-group credit, in and of themselves should not be of concern. For example, where a retailer is obtaining credit and paying a market orientated rate for that credit, then this should not distort competition. However, if the credit provision was below the market rate, i.e. not reflecting the economic risk specifically of that retailer (as opposed to the group as a whole), this could potentially distort competition. To increase transparency around use of PCGs, a requirement was introduced (though a change to the market codes) for retailers to provide information to Ofwat including: confirmation any PCG has been provided on an arm’s length basis; and evidence which can be used to determine the commercial consideration (and any other relevant costs) of the PCG.