Only one in three UK businesses are aware they can choose their own business water retailer when the market opens in April.

From April 1st the commercial water market will be opened up to a competitive market, enabling businesses to choose their own water supplier.

However, research by energy procurement specialist Businesswise Solutions has found that suppliers and customers are ill prepared for the changes.

The company, which has bases in Lancashire and Manchester carried out a mystery shopping exercise of 13 suppliers and not one could direct the call to the relevant department.

Businesswise Solutions held a water event pre-deregulation and only five people out of an estimated audience of 75 admitted to being ready for the biggest reform the UK water market has ever seen.

The findings back the results of a recent survey of businesses across England by water regulator Ofwat which found only a third were aware they could choose a business water retailer when the market opens.

Frazer Durris, managing director of Businesswise Solutions, said their findings represented a “massive missed opportunity”.

He explained:

“Until now many businesses have paid little attention to their water usage and costs, but with deregulation turning on the tap to new entrants and extra competition among suppliers, consumers are now in the perfect position to take control.

While percentage savings by switching alone are likely to be single figures, there is potential to reach up to 30% savings through consolidated supply, a complete audit of existing portfolio and better management of this vital utility moving forwards.

Yet, as we suspected, not many companies are aware of the markets changes, or they are aware of the move but don’t know how to start acting upon it.”

Peter Catlow, director of cost management at Businesswise Solutions, carried out the mystery shopping exercise of 13 suppliers and said he was “staggered” at what we found.

He said:

“No one could put me through to the department required, I was given a generic info@ email address to send a message to from some supplier companies and told someone would ring me back for others; I got no response at all.

Our advice at this stage would be to get your house in order in preparation for the tender process and work with a partner who you feel will help you take advantage of the market.”