A utilities consultancy claims businesses in England could collectively save up to £200m on their water bills, following the deregulation of the English water market, giving business owners the chance to renegotiate their existing water contracts or look to a new supplier.
Utilitywise estimates that savings on water tariffs will be around 10%, dependent on region. The water market in England is valued at £2bn, and 1.2million businesses now have direct control over who supplies their water.
In the month following water deregulation on 1 April, Utilitywise says it has received more than 50,000 business engagements regarding water supply, as business owners look to take advantage of potential savings on their water bill.
But while the initial response to water deregulation has been encouraging, says Utilitywise, there are potentially hundreds of thousands of businesses that are missing out on its benefits. Separate research by Ofwat, the industry regulator, and Utilitywise both revealed that less than half of the businesses responsible for their own water supply were aware that they would soon have a choice of water retailer.
Brendan Flattery, CEO of Utilitywise, said: “We are delighted to see such a high number of enquiries since the water market deregulated, but also believe that more can be done to make businesses aware of its potential benefits. A deregulated market could produce savings of as much as 10%, as well as improved service and greater choice.
“To complement this, bundled utilities contracts, such as those offered by Utilitywise, which combine electricity, gas and water, have shown to save businesses up to 25%. Ofwat has a responsibility to ensure that these companies are aware of the water options open to them and to push for greater margins of savings for smaller businesses, like we have seen in Scotland.”
He said the Scottish Water market deregulated in 2008 with similar low margins. After three years the regulator intervened, widening the retail margin to allow savings of 20%+ for all businesses. Since the intervention, roughly 50% of businesses have switched, which could provide a clear blue print for Ofwat and the English water market.
Andy Poole, specialist water policy advisor at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “We believe the new water market will bring opportunities for many small businesses to take advantage of the different services and tariffs on offer. Competition should drive up services, standards and trust for small business customers.
“We encourage businesses to examine what they are being offered by their current supplier and compare it with what others are offering. They should look at price, advice and support, innovation and technology, customer service, combined utilities and other additional services. There’s no need to rush into a new contract you’re not sure about- see what suits you best, before making an informed decision.”