Uncharted Waters: Phase 2 Non-household customers’ expectations of competition in the water industry: Research with industry representatives

With the retail market in England set to open in 2017, the Consumer Council for Water wants to ensure it understands and can represent the views of non-household customers as the market develops. To help achieve this we worked with a research partner to interview five organisations that represent business customers of various sizes in England.

We are now publishing Phase 2 of the research called ‘Uncharted Waters’. The findings remain consistent with Phase 1 which we published in 2014. Our key findings are shared below or you can read the full report here .

Key Findings: What customer representatives told us about water market reform

  • All were aware of the forthcoming market reform but information had come from peers/colleagues rather than the government or water industry
  • Lessons should be learnt from energy and telecoms where small companies struggle to negotiate the best deals and larger businesses need specialist procurement teams.
  • There is opposition of automatic rollovers of contracts and hidden charges. Customers do not want to see automatic rollovers of contracts and hidden charges, but they want clear exit clauses, notice periods and transparent costs
  • Contracts for smaller companies should be simple to understand and easy to compare
  • Representatives are skeptical that their members will actually switch water suppliers
  • An on-going, timely and accurate communication campaign was called for – targeted at both the representative organisations and their members. Developers feel that market reform may exacerbate problems rather than improving the situation because the retailer could be a barrier to accessing the wholesaler.