Disappointing water supplier switching figures trickle in following the government opening the market in April

Courtney Goldsmith
Follow Courtney
First quarter switching figures show competition in the UK's water market has dried up (Source: Getty)

Less than one per cent of businesses have switched water supplier since the government opened the market's taps on 1 April, new figures suggest.

In the first quarter of 2017/18, 36,301 supply points switched water retailer out of the 2.6m that make up the market, according to switching figures published today by Market Operator Services Limited (MOSL), a company jointly owned by all the water firms that trade in England's competitive non-household retail market.

Of those, nearly 30,000 were related to sewerage points while 15,303 were water point switches.

Analysis from utilities consultancy Utilitywise found the number of businesses who have switched water supplier since the market was deregulated in April is less than one per cent.

Brendan Flattery, the boss of Utilitywise, called on Michael Gove, secretary of state for Defra, to make the water market more open and competitive by adopting a three-point plan which the consultancy outlined last month.

The firm's plan claims to unlock £200m worth of collective savings for businesses across England.

Flattery said:

Our proposals aren’t rocket science or costly, but simple measures such as publishing standardised pricing models so that businesses can compare different water contracts and find the best deal for them. Currently, businesses have to individually contact more than 20 water suppliers – an arduous task for business owners trying to reduce their bills.

“The water market deregulated on 1st April, but we have learnt today that less than one per cent of businesses have switched water supplier, showing that the water market is still not truly open.

"The regulator, Ofwat, has not been given the authority to enforce policies which would result in better deals for customers."

Utilitywise, which offers commercial customers advice about how to procure gas and power more efficiently, argued that Ofwat should be given the authority by Defra to hold water suppliers to account.

Defra did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more: Utilitywise shares power up as analysts eye long-term growth

Related articles