Static water market awareness is selling small businesses short

Low awareness of the retail water market remains the biggest obstacle to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in England securing a better deal on price and service, according to the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater).

The latest wave of SME research published by the Water Watchdog today (Tuesday) has found that only 2 out of 5 (41%) non-household customers think they can switch their water provider, despite the market opening in England almost 18 months ago.

CCWater remains concerned that overall awareness levels have not shifted since July 2017 when it carried out the first of its three surveys to date tracking the views of SMEs.

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of CCWater, said: “Customer awareness increased significantly ahead of the market opening but in the past year it appears to have hit a brick wall and that really concerns us.”

“We know that once small businesses are aware they have a choice they are interested in exploring their options but at the moment too many are being sold short by a lack of awareness and information.”

When prompted, just a quarter of SMEs said they were aware that the water market in England had opened to retail competition in April 2017.

However, among SMEs that were aware of competition almost half (45 per cent) had looked for information and a quarter had taken steps to switch supplier. Nearly a third (31 per cent) said they intended to switch in the next six months.

Larger businesses continue to be more active in exploring their choices with medium-sized businesses (50-249 employees) around twice as likely as micro businesses (fewer than 10 employees) to have looked for market information, switched or negotiated a better deal.

CCWater will be renewing its own efforts to help raise awareness through working in partnership with influential representative bodies, including the Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and National Farmers’ Union. But the watchdog believes water retailers are best-placed to reach out to smaller businesses and help them understand how choice can benefit them.

One of the ways retailers can do this is by sharing positive case studies from their own customers that have benefitted from switching or renegotiating.

You can read the full survey results here (pdf)

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

1 CCWater commissioned Populus to carry out a series of online omnibus surveys of SMEs in England to gauge their awareness of the introduction of retail water competition. More than 500 online interviews were carried out during July 2017, January 2018 and August 2018. The samples cover a wide variety of sect

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