Social Tariffs Research, UK Water & Sewerage Company

Using willingness to pay research to extend a social tariff


Our client, one of the UK’s largest water and sewerage customers, commissioned fineline to help inform its approach extending its a social tariff, thereby helping to address issues of affordability amongst their financially vulnerable customers.

The focus was to understand levels of customer support for this; how much customers would be prepared to increase their bills in order to help fund the social tariff; and to identify any barriers.


fineline implemented a comprehensive programme of customer research using qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Tele-depths were used upfront to inform the design of the questionnaire as well as after the quantitative survey to provide greater insight into potential barriers and how they could be addressed. Online quantitative surveys were used to understand and inform pricing decisions.


The research identified a high level of support for the social tariff. Customers were willing to pay more to support the financially vulnerable but the majority also felt the tariff should be part-funded by company profits. Another insight was it should be offered alongside water efficiency advice and metering to help recipients better manage their water usage.

Segmentation of the findings by socio economic and income groups provided valuable insight into the differing willingness to pay amongst these customer segments but, importantly, that there was a willingness to pay even amongst those on the lowest incomes. The latter was particularly important in justifying their intention to extend eligibility to the Consumer Council for Water (CCW).

The success of the research led to the client commissioning a second study, to support further extension of the scheme, 18 months later.