Small business awareness of water retail remains scant says consumer watchdog

Small business awareness of the retail water market hasn’t shifted since summer 2017, according to the Consumer Council for Water.

The latest wave of its tracking research, published last week, showed only 40% of small and medium-sized enterprises ((SMEs) knew they could switch water provider, and only 29% knew they could negotiate a better deal with their existing supplier. This is largely flat on the watchdog’s July 2017 findings.

Mike Keil, head of policy and research at CCWater, said: “Small businesses have not been empowered with the knowledge and tools they need to punish poor service and enjoy the potential benefits of switching or renegotiating. Many SMEs feel they are being overlooked by retailers and unless that perception changes, customers will continue to miss out.”

CC Water explained larger businesses remain more active in exploring their choices with medium-sized businesses (50-249 employees) around twice as likely as micro businesses (fewer than ten employees) to have looked for market information, switched or negotiated a better deal.

CC Water said it is continuing to raise awareness of the market through its own communications and work with influential representative bodies – including the Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and National Farmers’ Union. But it believes retailers can improve the marketing of their services to smaller businesses, to help them understand how choice could potentially benefit them.

Populus has carried out series of online omnibus surveys of SMEs in England to gauge their awareness of the introduction of retail water competition. More than 500 online interviews were carried out during July 2017, January 2018, August 2018 and February 2019. The samples cover a wide variety of sectors.