Awareness of retail water market among SMEs

In July we commissioned an online survey to measure awareness of the non-household retail water market among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Our previous research had suggested that low awareness of retail competition, particularly among small businesses, could see customers missing out on the potential benefits of choice once the market opened in England on 1 April 2017.  We challenged and worked with the water industry to try and ensure the majority of customers were aware of the new market by the time it launched.

Key findings

Our latest survey of more than 500 micro, small and medium-sized businesses from across a wide variety of sectors shows:

  • Awareness among SMEs has risen considerably since CCWater carried out a survey in the early part of 2016 which revealed fewer than one in ten small businesses were aware of the soon-to-be launched retail water market
  • Over 2 in 5 (43%) SMEs told us they were aware they could switch their water retailer after the market opened in England on 1 April.
  • Fewer businesses – around 26 per cent – had a clear understanding that choice only related to retail services, including billing, meter reading and customer service.
  • Over half (52%) of SMEs said they were likely to explore the choices their organisation has in the next six months.  Almost as many (44%) said they would try to negotiate with their existing retailer. Nearly a third (30%) said they’d consider switching in the next six months.
  • About 2 in 5 (39%) SMEs who said they were unlikely to switch or negotiate a better water deal felt their organisation did not use enough water to save any money. And 1 in five (22%) businesses did not see the need to switch because they were happy with their current deal.

Our findings suggest that more work needs to be done by all of us in the water sector to reach out to small businesses and inform them of their right to switch or negotiate a better deal and explain what the price or service benefits might be for them.

For more information please contact our Policy Manager Evan Joanette by emailing