As of 1 April 2017, small businesses across England have the right to choose their water retail supplier for the very first time. Up until now, businesses had to stick with their regional water company with no choice around the price they pay for either water supply or waste services.
More than one million businesses are now eligible to switch to any of the water retailers operating across the country, including charities and public sector organisations (the main criteria is that premises are being used mainly for business).
Taking control can lead to big benefits, particularly for small businesses using a lot of water such as hairdressers, leisure centres and the hospitality sector – the official Open Water body predicts that competition in the market could deliver benefits of over £200 million.
Reducing your water bill
Utility bills might not be top of your to do list, but making savings on the cost could make inroads into your overheads.
Shopping around today makes the average small business could save up to 5 per cent on their costs by switching to a different supplier – and the savings are expected to grow in coming years as changes are made to the way wholesale water prices are structured.
More importantly, you could make changes to your water account to get better value for money, such as receiving better services from your water retailer to help you take more control over your costs. That could be more flexible account management to view and manage your bill at a time that suits you, or smart meters to track your water consumption and spot opportunities to reduce it.
Streamlining your supply
One of the big benefits will be simplifying your water supply to reduce the time and energy spent on managing your utility bills. You can streamline your water and wastewater services under one supplier (something businesses in some regions have not been able to do so previously) as well as switch to e-billing and direct debit to avoid receiving multiple paper invoices through the post that need to be added to the to-do list.
Those businesses with multiple sites can also consolidate all their business premises under one supplier and into one bill, which could save precious admin resources so time can be spent focusing on core business activity.
We all know that switching off lights and office equipment overnight can reduce energy bills, but not much time is spent thinking about reducing bills through efficiency. One single tap dripping at one drop per second wastes 4,750 litres a year – so small changes to behaviour can make a difference, particularly for those businesses on metered supply.
When shopping around for a supplier, look for someone who can offer help to improve efficiency, from information about how to reduce consumption to smart meters that monitor usage. Your supplier should also be able to set up an online portal where you can view your bills and immediately spot anything out of the ordinary such as leaks or excessive consumption.
Check your charges
The fact that small businesses have always been with their regional supplier means that many could have been paying the wrong tariffs or charges for years without realising it. Switching supplier could provide the opportunity to rectify this – your supplier should make sure that any new contract is set up to make sure you only pay exactly what you need to (and if any inaccuracies come to light, you can claim a refund from your previous supplier).
Giuseppe Di Vita is managing director of SES Business Water.