Water Companies Set to Haemorrhage Hundreds of Thousands of Business Customers in 2017

Posted: Monday 16th January 2017

Over Half of English Businesses Say They Are Likely to Switch Supplier When The Water Market is Deregulated in 2017.

According to survey data released today by leading utility management consultancy, Utilitywise plc (AIM:UTW), England water companies are set to see customers switching to newly created water businesses, with the potential to lose hundreds of thousands of business customers to these companies when the water market deregulates in April next year.

Businesses in England are set to be the major beneficiary of a huge potential shake-up of the water sector with the survey data showing that over half (53%) of English businesses are likely to switch supplier in 2017.

Those in the know are even more likely to switch. When informed about water deregulation, a massive 74% of businesses stated that they are likely to switch compared to the 37% of companies with little knowledge of the upcoming changes.

It is expected that now customers have experienced switching suppliers within the deregulated energy market, this will negate any uncertainty that existed years ago with changing utility suppliers.

James Duncan, Head of Water Market Strategy at Utilitywise said:

"Everything is up for grabs next year as businesses across England seize control of their water supply arrangements for the first time. Many water suppliers risk being caught short as business customers will no longer have to tolerate poor customer service and lack of competition. By exercising their right to switch supplier, small and medium-sized businesses finally have a choice and will benefit from a fundamental reshaping of the market."

The survey exposes widespread dissatisfaction with value and service provided by current water suppliers. Many of the customers surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with value for money with 38% believing that they pay too much.

When asked about the reasons for switching supplier, 56% of businesses stated that they want a better price, nearly 1 in 4 (22%) want better customer service and a quarter (26%) want a supplier that they can trust. Alarmingly, only 19% are happy with their current supplier.

Billing issues appear to be a common occurrence within the sector with 37% of businesses in the country having experienced billing errors (with half of these being over-charged). Only 41% of these were satisfied with the way that billing issues were resolved.

This has contributed towards over 30% of businesses saying that they do not trust their current water supplier to put the customer first.

James Duncan further commented:

"These survey results are a wake-up call to suppliers in the English market. Our experience of the impact of deregulation in the Scottish market shows that the incumbent supplier lost around 50% of its market share for reasons very similar to those highlighted in this survey. There are over 1.2 million businesses in the English market who will be able to choose their water supplier from April 2017 onwards. This means that the most progressive, innovative, service-oriented suppliers have a fantastic opportunity to raise the service, trust and value bar and win hundreds of thousands of new customers in 2017 and beyond."

A recent Utilitywise-sponsored survey revealed that just four in ten businesses across England are aware of forthcoming water deregulation in 2017, with just 25% of English businesses saying that they felt informed. It was revealed that many businesses don't understand the potential benefits of the coming market changes.

The survey shows that 46% of businesses are looking to the Government to provide clarity around the changes to the water market, with only 15% trusting the information that they receive from water companies. This highlights the demand for more to be done to help companies when the market deregulates next year.

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April 2021

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