Small businesses want more help shopping for a better water deal

Small businesses want more help understanding and accessing the potential benefits of the retail water market in England before they take the plunge.

A new in-depth study by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) suggests small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) need more convincing that competition has something to offer them, a year on from the market opening to non-household customers1.

SMEs told the Water Watchdog saving money would be their main motivation to switch or renegotiate and they expected to do this through a range of services, including online account management, water efficiency measures and bundled utility services.

However, smaller businesses said they had been hampered by a perceived lack of information and interest from market retailers. SMEs had also expected to find a price comparison website to make it easier for them to shop around.

Those SMEs that had switched supplier had relied on the support of a market broker and found the process much smoother than they had expected.

The report’s recommendations reinforce recent calls by CCWater for retailers to reach out to small businesses and improve the visibility of their price and service offerings.

Phil Marshall, Deputy Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said:

“All of us in the sector need to work harder to change the perception among many small businesses that this market has very little to offer them.”

“Retailers and brokers should see this as a golden opportunity to sell the benefits of switching or renegotiating to a group of customers that often don’t have the time or resources to go hunting for information that should be much easier to access.”

The experience of SMEs was in stark contrast to the larger organisations that took part in the study. These customers had a much better grasp of the market and the potential benefits. However, large organisations said their experience could be improved further once the market gets to grips with issues caused by poor data, inaccurate bills and disputes between wholesalers and retailers.

CCWater is already pressing some poor performing water retailers to improve their service and will be publishing a league table of the best and worst suppliers for complaint-handling in June.

You can read the full report and its recommendations here (pdf)

For more information call the media team on 0121 345 1005.

1 The study was conducted using focus groups and telephone interviews with a sample of 72 organisations, including SMEs, large organisations and Third Party Intermediaries (TPIs). The findings provide insights into the experiences of different organisations in the sample and how they were engaging with the water market. Consequently, it is only indicative of the broader experiences of customers.

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