There is a growing awareness of water market deregulation among SMEs
The survey commissioned by Wheatley questioned 500 SMEs across England and asked ‘Were you aware that you could now change water retailer?’. An average of 58% of SMEs were aware of market deregulation one month after the market opened for competition. Increases in awareness were seen across all SME customer groups compared to the January 2017 Ofwat survey, but there is still work to be done to ensure that the benefits of competition are available to all businesses; a third of businesses surveyed were unaware of deregulation and so are not able to access the benefits that market competition will bring them.
England’s SMEs are actively engaging in the water market
SME businesses in England are taking advantage of the opportunities that deregulation has presented. The Wheatley survey showed that over a fifth (21%) of eligible and aware SMEs switched water provider in the first month of deregulation. Those who are yet to switch appear to be watching the market closely, with a further 50% of those who haven’t yet switched planning to do so within the next 18 months.
SMEs are already reaping the benefits of market competition
The Wheatley survey showed that SMEs are already benefiting from deregulation as they renegotiate contracts with their existing supplier or move to a new water retailer. This has given them the same choice over their water retailer as they currently have for their energy and other essential services. When SMEs are switching water retailer price is the most important factor. 77% of respondents rated price as ‘extremely influential’ or ‘very influential’ in their decision to change water retailer and 83% of respondents saved money by switching to a new water contract.
SMEs want to utilise more than ‘core-services’ from water retailers
As well as providers of core water and sewage services, SMEs also look to water retailers to address other water related problems and issues they face. Wheatley’s survey shows this creates an exciting opportunity for water retailers to provide added value services. These opportunities extend beyond existing value added services, such as water testing to include future propistions which would aide customer retention in a competitive market.