Let’s talk about water. Businesses need it every day to keep things going. You could be using water by the minute for cleaning or processing. You could be using it for cooking in a professional kitchen. Or, like most people, you could be using it to get the kettle boiled for the next round of coffee & tea in the office.
No matter what way the business you’re involved in uses water, we all depend on water to keep things running smoothly. One very smooth change happened a few years ago that many businesses, in my opinion, are still lagging behind and haven’t caught up with; the water retail market. It’s background, and current status, is something everyone running a business should be clued in on.
You should know about the water market, and how it can help your business. That’s exactly what I plan to do with a whirlwind look at what it is, what it does, and how it benefits your business. So, grab yourself some tea or a glass of water, and soak up all this essential information.
Understanding what the water market is
I’m often surprised that many people don’t know or realise that there is a water retail market in the UK. It only came to be in 2017, and while that may feel like a million years for many people (especially considering how long 2020 has felt), its implementation was a long time coming.
It used to be that businesses, just like houses, were stuck with one water retailer they had to pay bills to. It didn’t matter where your business was located, or if you had multiple locations across the country, you would have to pay whoever operated the water in that area. This was usually down to a county level.
Switching to an open market came with the aim of giving the consumer choice, creating competition between companies (which would lower bills in the process), and relieve those companies already operating the network of having to be both a maintenance company and commercial business; effectively a win-win for everyone. But what exactly would this market do?
Knowing what the water retail market does
The switch to an open market was a very big deal. Overnight you suddenly had over a million businesses and organisations across England who now had options of who they would pay for water. Imagine you woke up tomorrow and suddenly a new company could promise to lower your internet or mobile bills without any interruption to services? Now imagine it was anywhere from two to a dozen companies all vying for your attention. On the customer side, things got better very quickly, due to how the water market works.
Now, those companies which are solely in charge of running the network have water retailers buy their services for a wholesale price, create their own dedicated packages, and offer them to your business. So, instead of being bound by the operator in your area, all of sudden you can get a better deal. But how can a new provider benefit your business?
Realising how it benefits your business
The shake-up in the industry sent signals to businesses that they could get a much better deal on water bills. It wouldn’t always mean bills would drop to record lows, but it could allow for a steady decrease if the retailer were wise to better tariffs and complimentary services.
These services are, to me, the most important and undervalued factors any business should be all over. I liken it to this:
You’re shopping around for a good broadband deal and realise that a provider will give you a cheaper bill as long as you take on a bundle for a phone line and TV box too. Why would they do such a thing? Well, retailers are looking to get as much of the pie as they can from customers who don’t realise they could get improved services.
If you’re reading this now, and your provider has never mentioned getting digital meter upgrades, moving away from a rateable system, and getting someone physically in your building to look at water usage, you are missing out. To get a rough idea of what services you’d typically expect from a new retailer, I recommend reading how Castle Water (one of the top-rated on Trustpilot) can help business customers here.
Knowing it isn’t a free-for-all
Before you go rushing to find water retailers in your area, I recommend checking out OFWAT & Open Water – two fantastic resources for anyone running a business about finding a water retailer. They lay out the process much more coherently than I could, and also have self-check guides to see what type of business you’d be classified as (this helps when getting in touch with retailers).
There you have it. A very short guide to what the water retail market is, and why knowing more about it helps any business in England. Now just make sure there are no leaky taps.