More could have been done to raise awareness of water market opening, according to MOSL director Steve Arthur, who insisted the new market needs the “oxygen of visibility”.

Speaking at the Utility Week Water Customer conference in Birmingham last Wednesday (17 January), he said that although the market “may not have been the biggest or sexiest news story” for the two or three years in the lead-up to 1 April 2017, “more could have been done”.

Although work is being done now, Arthur questioned whether this was enough. Engagement with the market may be on the rise amongst larger organisations, which have “probably always been more engaged” with their water and sewerage retailer, smaller businesses are engaging less.

“More engagement probably means more awareness,” said Arthur.

He urged the industry to “ask ourselves what lessons can be learned in opening this market about giving visibility”, adding that “more could have been done in my view.”

“We’ve got to make sure that that visibility is there now.”

Open Water – the organisation in charge of market opening – launched a £300,000 campaign on 23 January 2017 to raise awareness among small and medium-sized businesses. However, many considered this too little too late.

Research published by Ofwat at the time the campaign was launched found that just one-third of businesses were aware they could switch supplier. Meanwhile, just over 50 per cent of those surveyed said they would consider switching as soon as the market opened.

Since the market opened, awareness has been creeping up, with latest figures from CCWater – published in August last year – indicating that 43 per cent of SMEs were aware they could switch retailer.

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