Time to get down to business – The major user experience of the retail water market and recommendations for better customer outcomes

The MEUC today published a report urging policy makers to act to improve outcomes for customers in the water retail market.

It called for:

Poor data quality to be tackled urgently and strategically at market level
Concerted action must be taken to significantly improve data quality in the central market, particularly meter reads and other elements which affect bill accuracy. The MEUC said it was not sufficient to leave this work to individual companies’ discretion, given we are now 18 months in to the market, problems persist and customers are on the sharp end of bad bills and inaccurate consumption information. Data quality problems must be addressed strategically and concertedly at market level.

Raise the retail margin
Low retail margins are curtailing the benefits customers could potentially reap from the new arrangements and damaging the market’s ability to deliver desirable outcomes in the round. This includes limiting price discounts and service improvements; dampening customer appetite to engage and retailer appetite to bid for some accounts; and thwarting the roll out of water saving technologies and processes, at a cost to both the customer and the environment.
While the market offers the potential for cost savings beyond straightforward price discounts – particularly for multi-site customers through administrative rationalisation and bill consolidation – these are hard to quantify and members report they cannot always make the case internally. Moreover, delivery of these administrative benefits in reality has so far been patchy.

These are two of a series of recommendations the MEUC is making following scrutiny of its members’ choices and experiences over the first 15 months of the market.

The major users’ group found switchers typically achieve 2% price savings from switching, and report a smooth switching experience, the acquisition of more beneficial payment terms and better account management, and in some cases benefits in the form of historic rebates. However, a major concern is that many switchers are dissatisfied with how the deal they signed up for is being delivered. Common problems are ongoing issues with getting timely and accurate bills, and the lack of access to granular consumption data. The root cause of both of these issues appears to be data quality problems in the central market.

Non switchers are deterred from engaging in the market not by ignorance but by low perceived savings; market complexity; and company-specific factors.

The report, Time to get down to business – The major user experience of the retail water market and recommendations for better customer outcomes, also details experiences common to all members regardless of their switching choices.