Should you change your water supplier?

A recent Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) survey has found that 43 per cent of SMEs were aware they could switch their water retailer after the market opened in England on 1 April 2017.

The survey, carried out in July 2017, also found that over half, or 52 per cent, of SMEs said they were likely to explore their choices in regard to changing water market providers in the next six months.

Larger business were more likely to take action when it came to switching, negotiating or finding out more, with 35 per cent of medium sized business versus 21 per cent of micro businesses saying they would contact prospective service providers.

The SMEs that were unlikely to switch or negotiate said this was because they didn’t use much water (39 per cent) or were already satisfied with the price they paid (22 per cent).

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We’re encouraged to see awareness levels rising. However, there is a lot more work to be done by all of us in the water sector to reach out to small businesses and inform them of their right to switch or negotiate a better deal.

“Small businesses, in particular, would benefit from more communication and clarity about the retail market and the opportunities it offers for their organisation. This can help to ensure the market works for everyone, from the largest manufacturer or supermarket chain to the smallest florist or coffee shop.”

CCWater plans to repeat the survey of SMEs in December as part of its long-term commitment to track the shifting views of business customers on the retail water market.

The OpenWater initiative allows SMEs to take advantage of the benefits of switching retail water suppliers and helps eligible small businesses switch supplier through five straightforward steps on their website.


What is OpenWater?

OPENWATER IS a new initiative allowing small businesses and non-household consumers the option to choose which water retailer they can use. Businesses can shop around for the best deals for their water and wastewater rather than staying with their regional water supplier, which in turn will save them on energy costs. Eligible businesses and other non-household customers can shop around for their water and wastewater retailer like they do for other goods and services. Retail suppliers compete for customers by offering them the best deal.


Why now?

The UK government made changes to the water supply industry from 1 April 2017 which will help small businesses save on water costs. The government is now attempting to raise awareness among small businesses that they have the option to choose which water retailer offers them the best deal, rather than staying with their regional provider.


How does the process work?

Similar to other utility markets such as gas, electricity and telecoms, open retail water markets work by using wholesalers who provide water and wastewater services to retailers, who in turn sell these services to business customers.

Retailers compete with each other by offering the best deals and eligible customers can choose which retailer to buy water and wastewater services from, allowing for more choice and competition in the water market.


Who is eligible for the project?

Large businesses have always been able to choose which water retailer they are provided with. Since 2011, only businesses and other non-household customers who use more than five million litres of water a year have been able to choose who supplies their water and wastewater services. Since the market opened to competition, around 1.2 million more businesses are now eligible to switch.

What are the main benefits of OpenWater

By allowing more choice and freeing up competition in the water industry, small businesses and non-household consumers can shop around for cheaper water service than ever before by switching to a new retailer. This means lower bills, reduced charges or cheaper prices could be a benefit of the OpenWater market for some. It also gives small businesses more negotiating power when renewing deals with their existing regional water supplier as they now have the option to switch to a non-regional water supplier.

How to switch?

Switching provider is an easy five step process:

There are five simple steps:

1. Determine your water use

2. Check your current deal

3. Shop around

4. Agree a deal

5. Make your choice

How long does it take to switch?

Switching is a fast and easy process that should take no longer than a month.

This article was published in our Business Reporter Online: Future of Retail.

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