Find out how to switch your water supplier for a better deal. Follow our guide, learn the benefits & risks, and make an informed decision to start saving money.
In an era of endless consumer choice, it can be easy to forget that businesses are consumers too. But for many years, the ability to change water suppliers was something that was not permitted for anybody. However, since April 2017 more than 1.2m new eligible customers–defined by the government as “non-household premises that pay business rates”–have been able to do exactly this.
Of course, the exact benefits of switching suppliers will vary depending on the exact needs of your business, but in a competitive marketplace customers can now negotiate with retailers for the best price and choose a service package to suit their needs. As well as greater choice, customers can expect to save money and save water through lower bills and increased water efficiency.
There are conditions, but as long as the principle use of the premises is non-residential and liable for business rates, and isn't eligible for council tax (further checks are carried out if it is), then you should be good to go. The government's last official guidance on the matter can be found here.
There are three main reasons why you may wish to consider switching water suppliers: cost, customer service and cost and tailored solutions.
Changing your business water supplier will require some work from your end. If you're looking to save money on your water bill, you'll have to get quotes from as many suppliers as possible and fully understand the needs of your business.
But it should be remembered that some of your preconceptions about making this change may be somewhat out of date. Many may worry about the amount of time that making such a change will eat up, for example, but it is estimated that to do so should take no longer than a month to get completed.
So if cost, customer service and tailored services are the most common reasons for businesses changing water suppliers, what are the potential benefits of doing so?
Cost: Unsurprisingly, in a competitive marketplace suppliers may charge different rates, and any business should be looking for ways to reduce their expenditure. Shopping around may well have benefits for businesses looking to save money.
Customer service: If an organisation feels like their water supplier is not communicating effectively or doing their tasks as expected, they may feel this is a big enough reason to start searching for a different supplier that places a greater emphasis on customer service.
Tailored solutions: There may be times when an organisation will outgrow its current water management solutions. If they require new solutions that their current provider does not offer, they may have to move and find one that matches their needs.
Of course, it is possible that you already have the best deal that you could possibly have with your business water supplier, and the first step towards changing suppliers should be to identify the needs of your own business.
One of the best ways to decide whether changing water suppliers is best for you is by carrying out a business water audit. This is a strategic service which can help to bring them down, while also providing solutions to maximise efficiency. It's conducted by a professional auditor, who'll visit a company's premises and assess water consumption levels.
Water audit services also help business owners to avoid the most common errors associated with water charges, such as duplicate invoices, billing errors and estimated readings based on the rateable value. The advice provided can help organisations identify past losses, which can also help them to make cost-effective changes to future workspace water consumption. In an era of ESG (environmental social governance) policy, a drive towards water efficiency can also provide a credibility boost when it comes to sustainability.
But this isn't necessary. Research potential suppliers based on services, rates, and reputation. You should be able to get quotes based on your current usage from all of the suppliers, to give you an idea of how the competing suppliers stack up against each other.
Make sure to compare the total cost of ownership (TCO) of each supplier. TCO is a measure of the total cost of acquiring, using, and maintaining a product or service from a supplier over its lifetime. It includes not only the initial price, but also the ongoing costs, such as maintenance, repairs, upgrades and support. TCO can help you evaluate the long-term value and performance of each supplier and avoid hidden or unexpected costs. You can use a TCO calculator or spreadsheet to compare the TCO of each supplier based on the quotes and your own estimates.
Also bear in mind that the cost of the water itself may not be the only factor that matters. Quality and reliability are important factors that affect the value and satisfaction of a product or service. They can also impact the TCO, as poor quality or reliability can lead to defects, delays, complaints, returns, or lawsuits. You should assess the quality and reliability of each supplier by checking their credentials, certifications, references, reviews, and samples. You should also consider their reputation, experience, and customer service.
You should request quotes from at least three suppliers to have a basis for comparison. You should also ask for detailed and itemised quotes that break down the costs of each component of the bill. This will help you understand how the supplier calculates the price and what factors influence it.
Requesting quotes can take some time, but we're here to help. Use Switchpal's handy business water quotes tool to get quotes from top providers - saving you time and money, and making the water supplier switching process easier.
Contracts are legally binding documents, so make sure that you carefully read the terms and conditions before you sign anything! In the event of a dispute at a date, courts will not accept, “I didn't read the small print” as a valid legal defence. Unlike consumer contracts, 'cooling off' periods after signing the contract seldom exist, though there is a 7-day one for microbusinesses that has been built into the regulation of this new market and you may be able to negotiate the inclusion of one as part of negotiating your contract with them in the first place. Pay particular attention to any 'cancellation rights' which may be in the standard terms and conditions.
You usually will have one to six months before the contract end date to notify them of your choice. Small businesses should have at least three months' notice. It is critical that you give notice formally during this period as failing to do so before the contract end date will result in your being automatically rolled into a deemed energy contract with your existing supplier at an uncompetitive rate. Make sure that you do this in writing with a termination letter, including the following:
You must notify your supplier of your intentions. To do so, you'll need to send a termination letter, which should include the following details:
The energy provider's address
Your company's registered address
The contract number
Your meter numbers
You have to send the termination before the final 30 days of the renewal window so that the supplier has at least 30 days' notice when cancelling your contract. Failure to do so could result in you being rolled over into a deemed contract. And in view of the potential costs, should you end up in a dispute with your former supplier, make sure that you keep copies of all correspondence.
Make sure that you know your cut-over date, which is the date specified in the Transition Plan corresponding to when the transfer of the service takes place, meaning that the new water supplier will have full operational responsibility for the performance of the service that you have requested. This will help you in knowing who to contact in the event that anything goes wrong during the transition period.
In the event of an interruption to usual water supply or a planned increase in demand, you may wish to consider emergency provisions such as emergency and wholesale bottled drinking water, bulk water tankering, storage tank and temporary supply infrastructure rental. Your new supplier should be able to set your mind at ease over any potential issues during the handover.
But broadly speaking, switching retailers should be a seamless process if done correctly. The same pipes and water will be supplied to your business when switching, it is just the retailer that changes. Supply will only be terminated if you continually fail to make payments to a retailer.
The most common reasons for businesses changing water suppliers are cost, the quality of customer service, and having specific requirements relating to a business's water supply that an existing supplier cannot (or will not) fulfil. You may also wish to consider what their billing terms are, how flexible their contract is, and how long it lasts.
For most contracts, you'll need to give notice before leaving early. In some cases, such as on a 3-year fixed deal, you'll have to pay an exit fee in order to switch to another retailer. Information on leaving your retailer early will be included in your contract.If you're unsure, contact your retailer's customer service desk for the terms of your exit.
Water companies have a duty to provide access to your supply systems on reasonable terms, and there is plenty of scope for negotiation. Some suppliers may provide value-added services such as leak detection or water usage reports, benefiting your business operations when you switch business water suppliers.
Around three to four weeks is the average time required to switch business water suppliers, and it certainly shouldn't take more than a month. The specifics of the changeover process may be something that you wish to consider when you're comparing suppliers in the first place.
You shouldn't, so long as you maintain payment to the previous supplier until the transition has completed. Before the transition, speak to your new supplier and check whether they have contingency planning for such scenarios. For worst case scenarios, you may wish to consider emergency provisions such as wholesale bottled drinking water, bulk water tankering, storage tank and temporary supply infrastructure rental.
In writing with a formal termination letter which includes the energy provider's address, your company's registered address, the contract number and your meter numbers. Don't forget to keep a copy of everything you send!
Water supply in the UK is highly regulated, so you should always receive a high quality of service and a good price. Micro-businesses have a 7-day cooling off period from when they sign a contract with new suppliers, which is far from standard in business contract law, while government regulations require that water suppliers charge a fair price.
Studies have shown that businesses in the UK spend 30% more than they need on their water, and if there's one thing that we all know from dealing with any companies who sell contracts, there are seldom many rewards for staying with the same one for years and years. With 1.2m businesses now eligible to switch water suppliers, it's time for you to look into how you could save money and get a water supply that better fits your business needs.
Want to understand your business water bill? Our guide explains all the key components and factors. Decode it, save money, and take control of your costs.
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