In around 18 months time, the water industry and its affect on small businesses will change dramatically – and for the better.
Having been pioneered north of the border in 2008 to great success, the deregulation of the non-domestic water market means that businesses in England and Wales can soon get in on the act by choosing their own water provider.
As things stand, the water sector is operated through various regional monopolies unlike other utility markets that have been deregulated such as gas and electricity. These monopolies lead to a lack of competition in choice and price, but things will change in April 2017.
Here's what it means:
- Lower Prices
The revolutionised government Water Bill will put customers, such as small to medium sized businesses, at the heart of the sector. You'll be able to negotiate better prices and choose a supplier that really delivers a top notch service at a price that suits. Consumers in Scotland have already experienced lower costs and wider access to discounts and promotions as a direct result of enhanced competition. One Scottish firm that really burst onto the scene in 2008 was Business Stream and in the several years since, they've shrunk the water bills of business and public sector customers by £133m. For those in England and Wales, it's highly likely that prices will fall well in advance of April 2017 as existing suppliers start trying to lure renewals in fear of losing your custom once the deregulation is official.
- Customer Satisfaction
The water industry is expected to take some pretty harsh lessons onboard from suppliers in the energy market who have been here before. In the last 15 years of energy deregulation, 63% of electricity customers and 60% of gas customers switched when the deregulation was passed. At the time, Ofgem reported on huge levels of customer dissatisfaction and a lack of trust towards the Big 6 (suppliers). They simply weren't prepared for the massive changes afoot and didn't do enough to retain their custom; this time around we can expect water suppliers to put up a better fight which means looking to increase customer satisfaction levels through quality service and good pricing.
- Standardised billing
It's fairly ridiculous that a business could have different regional offices or premises yet have to deal with various different water suppliers and non-standardised billing. Under new regulations, there is scope for centralised billing through a sole supplier which means lower costs through bulk buying and huge time savings in dealing with just one bill rather than multiple.