More than half of businesses in England have said they are likely to switch water suppliers when the retail water market opens up next year.
From April 2017, around 1.2 million businesses and public sector organisations in England will be able to choose their supplier for water and wastewater retail services such as customer service and billing.
A new survey suggests there could be a market “shake up” as water companies could lose “hundreds of thousands” of business customers to newly created firms.
Poor value for money, low quality service and lack of trust are some of the reasons that would potentially drive customers away.
When informed about water deregulation, 74% of those questioned said they are likely to switch compared to 37% of businesses with little knowledge of the upcoming changes. Around 38% believe they pay too much.
When asked about the reasons for switching suppliers, 56% of businesses said they want a better price, 22% want better customer service and a quarter want a supplier they can trust.
Only 19% of them said they are happy with their current supplier.
Billing issues were a common occurrence, with 37% of firms having experienced it and half of them being overcharged.
Around 41% said they were satisfied with the way the issue was resolved however more than 30% of businessesdon’t trust their current water supplier to put customers first.
James Duncan, Head of Water Market Strategy at Utilitywise said: “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.
“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 also found 46% of businesses are looking to the government to provide clarity around the changes to the water market, with only 15% trusting the information they receive from suppliers.