Household support for water competition hinges on bill savings

THE MAJORITY of households in England would welcome choice over their water retail supplier but expect competition to deliver significant bill savings, the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has revealed.

New research published by the water watchdog today (Friday) shows two-thirds of households would like the freedom to shop around for a different retail supplier to handle their water bills, meter reading, complaints and enquiries1.

However, only a third of customers said they were likely to consider switching when they were informed that actual savings could be as little as £4 to £8 on the average annual water and sewerage bill.2

It is the first time households’ views on water competition have been published since the Government asked industry regulator Ofwat to assess the costs and benefits of offering household customers in England a choice over who supplies their retail water services.

Ofwat is set to complete its review later this year, and competition could be introduced as early as 2020.

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Most customers like the idea of choice, especially if it can reduce their water and sewerage bills.

“But many customers have made it clear that they will not waste their time shopping around if the savings are so small and fall well short of their expectations.”

CCWater’s research revealed the lure of lower prices – rather than better customer service – would provide the biggest motivation for customers to consider switching water retailer, or negotiate a better deal with their existing water company.

When asked how much they would need to save on their own water bills to switch, 44 per cent of households said over £40 a year – which is more than the total value of retail services on the average water and sewerage bill.

CCWater will use the research findings to help inform Ofwat’s review of household competition. The regulator’s interim findings are due to be published in July, with the final report scheduled for September.

Although household competition remains some way off, around 1.2 million eligible businesses, public bodies and charities in England will be able to choose their water retailer from April 2017.

You can read the full findings of CCWater’s research here

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For more information or to arrange an interview call the CCWater media team on 0121 345 1005.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1 CCWater explored the views of 3,595 customers in England through 15 minute telephone interviews. Over 200 interviews were carried out with customers from each of the nine water and sewerage companies in England. In addition, CCWater also commissioned qualitative research with nine focus groups made up of customers from across England.

2  Customers were informed that retail services make up around £40 of the average annual water and sewerage bill and the margin for savings on this amount could be as low as £4 to £8 per year.

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