Floating the idea

Exploring water customers’ views about introducing retail competition for households in England after 2020.

The main aims of this research were to find out customers’ views, expectations and concerns about the potential introduction of retail competition into the household market.

These would then feed into Ofwat’s assessment of the costs and benefits of extending retail competition to household customers, and Defra’s consideration of associated policy issues.

CCWater sought customers’ views through focus groups and telephone surveys in each of the Water and Sewerage areas in England – with participants recruited to ensure that a mix of socio-economic groups (SEG), age, gender, metered and unmetered customers were represented – and depth interviews with 10 customers on the WaterSure scheme.

The key findings include:

  • 2 in 3 customers support the principle of introducing competition in the water and sewerage industry.
  • Price is the main motivator for switching provider.
  • The level of savings retail competition is likely to realise is too small to be attractive to most customers.
  • 6% of customers would consider switching for a saving of £1-£10 on their annual bill. 44% would expect to save over £40.
  • Access to social tariffs would be important in a competitive market.
  • Customers would not welcome the need to switch to a meter in order to engage in a competitive market.