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Currently only businesses using more than 50megalitres of water a year can switch suppliers. The proposed change would see this threshold dramatically reduced to five megalitres, increasing the number of eligible businesses in England from 2,200 to 26,000.

The change, which is subject to parliamentary approval, is an amendment to the Water Industry Act 1991. Commenting on the proposals, environment minister Richard Benyon said: “This change will allow a huge number of extra businesses to search out better water deals by switching supplier if their current supply does not work for them. It also highlights the Government’s firm commitment to help businesses and stimulate the economy.”

Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn welcomed the proposed changes, which she described as, “a step in the right direction and good news for qualifying businesses who will welcome greater choice during difficult economic times.”

While Dame Yve Buckland, chair of the Consumer Council for Water said: “This will be good news for many business customers, who are currently frustrated by the lack of progress of competition in water.

“The important thing now is to get the system working for those customers who can now switch and will need to have the confidence that they can easily and seamlessly change supplier.”

It is hoped the change will be enacted by the end of the year.

Will Parsons

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