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The experiences of small businesses as consumers in regulated markets

26 September 2014

Small businesses often have the same problems and concerns in regulated markets as domestic consumers, and operate at similar levels of market engagement and understanding.

They are not necessarily better equipped to take forward a complaint when things go wrong and can enjoy fewer protections and less access to third-party redress than domestic consumers.

Research into small business behaviour across a number of regulated sectors such as energy, water, finance and communications reveals that small businesses are consistently less engaged in markets than larger businesses.

Issues such as the cost of electricity and the reliability of internet or phone services can be as significant to small businesses as concerns such as cash flow, taxation and regulation that are traditionally cited as an issue for this sector. The success of a small business can depend on getting good value and service in these markets.

The research in this report supports evidence from other sources and builds a strong argument for regulators, firms and business groups to pay far greater attention to the ways in which markets meet the needs of small businesses.

Our next steps:

  • Use the findings from this research, along with data from other sources, to develop and publish a cross-sector agenda for improving the experience of small businesses as consumers in essential markets.
  • Look more closely at the different ways small businesses engage in essential markets and what interventions and tools could be of practical help to them.
  • Work with small business groups and other stakeholders to promote a small business consumer agenda.

The experiences of small businesses as consumers in regulated markets - full report [ 3.3 mb]