You would be forgiven for thinking that more attention than normal has been paid to the water market this past month, with MOSL releasing its first quarterly review since the market opened, the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) releasing statistics on complaints and service expectations and several other pieces of research too.
Unfortunately, it is not all good news. Complaints to the CCW were up this year*, by 59%! And whilst it is true that the majority (54%) were related to billing issues, they also involved operational issues, low-water pressure and leaks. When you add the fact that 42% of SMEs were unaware of the deregulation of the market one month after opening, you can see why some – perhaps unfairly - are calling the deregulation unsuccessful*.
To understand a bit more about how SMEs perceive the change in the water market, we decided to conduct a piece of research; the first piece conducted since the market opened. A total of 500 SMEs responded with their views and we can tell you that our research indicates many (40%) SMEs would not consider moving their water supply to an unknown brand. Not necessarily a problem, right? But it becomes a problem when your major water providers are now known as wholesalers and retailers – and businesses go through the water retailers. One of our research questions asked respondents to name as many water retailers as they could, and none of the top 10 most frequently named were actually water retailers. This means that SMEs will be expecting to switch to the traditional big water providers only to find brands they do not know, which are actually separate business arms of the larger, known companies. This is backed up with further evidence from the CCW report, which suggests some of the 370 complaints in April-July were regarding trouble finding information about water retailers.
I’m starting to wonder if there could be an education issue here – with the market opening without much communication to the businesses it [potentially] effects. Another trend of complaints was from regular households across England that had been wrongly classified as being eligible for the non-household market...meaning they could switch supplier. Fortunately, CCW intervened before much trouble was caused and more confusion took place.
Rather than focus on the negatives, lets realise this could be a moment of real opportunity. It hasn’t even been six months yet and the market now has clear, empirical evidence about what it needs to do to make the open competition a success – it is not too late for education and not too late to turn around the trends that are beginning to emerge.
For anyone that wants to talk to us about our research, or how we think the market could turn it around and how we might help, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form at the bottom of the screen. Until then, we will be working away on our software solution that is solely dedicated to the new water market, designed to handle, manage and track any operational enquiry (including the prescribed bilateral processes).
Thanks for reading,
Water Solutions Manager
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