Small business awareness of water retail market stagnates

Non-household customers are barely more aware they can switch their water supplier now than they were a year ago, according to the Consumer Council for Water.

The latest wave of its findings from research into small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), conducted in August and published last week, found that only two out of five (41%) thought they could switch their water provider, despite the market opening in England almost 18 months ago. The watchdog pointed out that overall awareness levels have not shifted since its first survey was conducted in July 2017.

Other results included:

  • 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.

  • Among SMEs that were aware of competition, almost half (45%) had looked for information and a quarter had taken steps to switch supplier. Nearly a third (31%) 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.

Chief executive of CC Water, Tony Smith, 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.”

The watchdog called on retailer to tackle the issue and said it would be renewing its own efforts to raise awareness.