Awareness of retail water market must not stagnate, warns Water Watchdog

Awareness of the retail water market among small businesses in England is in danger of stagnating unless the water industry steps up its efforts to engage with customers.

The warning from the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has been prompted by its latest research which reveals only 2 out of 5 small and medium-sized businesses (38%) think they can switch water retailer1.

Awareness levels have not shifted when compared to the water watchdog’s first wave of results in August 2017. And CCWater is concerned many small businesses are still unware of a market that has the potential to provide them with lower bills and customer service improvements.

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We want choice to work for everyone, from the smallest to the largest business, but that relies on customers having an awareness and understanding of the market.”

“All of us in the water sector need to ask ourselves are we doing enough to reach out to small businesses and help them understand why this market is worth engaging with. At present our research shows there is a lot more to do. We must not allow awareness levels to stagnate.”

CCWater has been working closely with business representative bodies, including the British Chambers of Commerce and National Farmers’ Union (NFU), in an effort to reach out to businesses across a large number of sectors over the past 18 months.

In the coming months we will also be publishing customer case studies to highlight the experiences of SMEs that have dipped into the market. CCWater is encouraging retailers to do the same to help smaller businesses better understand the potential benefits of switching or renegotiating their retail services.

The latest online survey, which was carried out in January, suggests awareness on a wide range of issues relating to the non-household market has not shifted since last summer.

When prompted, just a quarter of small and medium-sized businesses were aware of the changes to the water market in England which opened for business in April 2017.

Once customers were aware of the market the vast majority were keen to explore their choices. Almost half (47%) had looked for more information, with a third (31%) having negotiated a better deal with their current provider and just a quarter (24%) having switched supplier.

The survey also shows that the larger the business, the more likely they are to

take action with seven out of ten medium-sized enterprises saying they would try to find out more about their options in the coming months.

You can read the full survey results here

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Notes for editors

1 CCWater commissioned Populus to carry out an online omnibus survey of SMEs in England to gauge their awareness of the introduction of retail water competition. More than 500 online interviews were carried out during January 2018 in the second wave of research. The first wave took place in July 2017. The samples cover a wide variety of sectors.

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