One in ten businesses know there's a retail market about to open

Fewer than one in ten businesses in England are aware that they will soon be able to switch water supplier according to the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater).

The findings of CC Water’s study of awareness among businesses of the competitive retail market in water supply planned for an April start next year showed that while 60% of businesses polled were in favour of having an option to switch water supplier, only 8% were aware that the water retail market was scheduled to open to businesses next spring.

The consumer champion has challenged the water industry to inform the majority of the 1.2 million businesses who will be eligible to switch from April are aware of the opportunities.

CCWater’s Testing the Waters report revealed that awareness was particularly low among small businesses and it voiced concern they those consumers could lose out unless the industry up its efforts to inform its customers.

CC Water found that 38% of business customers said they would be likely to switch retailer once they had a choice but would need on average to see a cut in their with bills of at least 17% motivate changing supplier.bAnd 75% of businesses quizzed said they would seek a better deal with their existing supplier once the option to switch was in place.

CC Water chief executive, Tony Smith, pledged his organisation “would be doing all we can” to ensure all business users were alert to the prospect of retail market opening. “The whole industry needs to work together to make sure customers understand how the market will operate and could affect their business,” Smith added.

other findings from the CC Water study included:

  • satisfaction with water services across England and Wales was 92% compared to 88% in 2014;

  • ·satisfaction with sewerage services had dropped to 74% from 78% in 201;

  • just under half of businesses (46 per cent) also believed they advice and support from their water company met their needs; and

  • satisfaction with value for money of water services was down from 74% in 2014 to 66% today and for sewerage services satisfaction with value also fell to 65% from 68%.

Oft has this week begun a survey of micro, small or medium-sized businesses in England, to establish how much they know about the opening of the market in business water retail services.

The survey will be based on some 2000 telephone questionnaires and about 100 in-depth interviews. The findings are scheduled to be published later in the autumn. Ofwat expects to gain from the survey a “clear picture of levels of awareness, broken down by size and type of business and geographical area”.

Meanwhile the water companies’ customer engagement work, is being collated by Water UK. Its findings are expected to inform the Open Water programme any gaps in understanding and awareness and advise on measures to ensure that eligible customers have the information they need.