A growing number of micro, small and medium-sized businesses know they can shop around for a better water deal, but more than half are still unaware of the new market in England according to the first in a series of online surveys by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) aimed at tracking awareness of the retail water market among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).1

Just over 2 in 5 (43%) SMEs told the water watchdog they were aware they could switch their water retailer after the market opened in England on 1 April. Fewer businesses – around 26 per cent – had a clear understanding that choice only related to retail services, including billing, meter reading and customer service.

Awareness among SMEs has risen considerably since CCWater carried out a survey in the early part of 2016 which revealed fewer than one in ten small businesses were aware of the soon-to-be launched retail water market. And over half (52%) of SMEs who took part in the latest survey said they were likely to explore their choices during the next six months.

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.”

About 2 in 5 (39%) of SMEs who said they were unlikely to switch or negotiate a better water deal felt their organisation did not use enough water to save any money. And 1 in five (22%) businesses did not see the need to switch because they were happy with their current deal.

The findings suggest retailers need to do more to explain how switching can benefit even the smallest business, through the provision of tailored services, simpler billing, and better customer service.

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 full report is available here.