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Switching your water supplier – is it easy? Pt2


By Phill Tuxford
Technical Support Manager

Following on from part one, this is the second part in our investigation into just how easy it is to switch your water supplier.

In March 2017, we began our own internal project to explore the opportunities available to us to swap our water supplier following competition changes to the UK retail water market.

At that stage we had absolutely no idea how the process would actually work, what would be involved, how long it might take and what the end result would be. It’s fair to say that we didn’t expect to deliver any savings and resigned ourselves to the fact that things probably wouldn’t change. Call us sceptical but from speaking with other commercial businesses, this was a feeling shared by many.

It’s now July and I can categorically state, speaking from first-hand experience, that we were right!

Tasked with looking into our options, Rachael Batson, utilities consultant & account manager at Business Wise Solutions, first of all requested copies of our water bills for the last 12 months. Using those bills she analysed our water usage.

Next, Rachael drafted several tenders and emailed selected water suppliers to get quotes. The waiting game then commenced. It took over three months to receive prices from the water suppliers simply because they had received hundreds of similar requests from businesses across the UK. Rachael diligently kept in regular contact with the selected water suppliers and informed us at every step of the process, even when there was nothing to report.

Then, on 5th July, I received the following email from her:

“Just got off the phone with them asking where the pricing was. They advised me that there is no saving on your current rates. All that wait and I am sorry they haven’t presented any savings for you.”

That email came as no real surprise and, when I spoke with Rachael, she told me that the majority of companies carrying out this exercise are seeing either minimal savings or none at all with larger sites recording just a 1% saving. Rachael feels that next year this may improve as happened in the Scottish market with the margins there slowly growing to 20%.

Finally, you may remember in Part 1 that our retail water market project threw up an anomaly all of its own. We discovered that our current water supplier, United Utilities, had automatically switched our account to new water retailer, Water Plus, a United Utilities and Severn Trent Water joint venture. This switch left Detectronic with two water accounts rather than one. The explanation from United Utilities was that one account is for clean water supply and the other is our trade effluent account, specifically the cost of processing our trade effluent. Puzzle solved!

So, after over three months of waiting and Rachael (who made the process very easy for us!) chasing for information, we’re back where we started. There is zero benefit to Detectronic changing its water supplier. It sounds like it’s a very similar story for many other businesses too. And, if it’s an exercise you’re considering carrying out for your company, my advice would be: don’t believe the hype!


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