Bristol Water customers will be very disappointed with decision on prices

The Consumer Council for Water today (4 August 2010) warned that the Competition Commission’s final decision on how much Bristol Water can charge its customers until 2015 is well above what many customers will be willing to accept.

The Competition Commission has said that Bristol Water will be able to raise prices by 15 per cent (£23) by 2015, which would mean that, before inflation is taken into account, the company’s average water bill will rise from £157 in 2009-10 to £180 in 2014-15.

In contrast, Bristol Water was proposing to raise average prices by 29 per cent (£45) above inflation over the same period.

Charles Howeson, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water Western Committee, said: “When we asked Bristol Water customers what they thought of the company’s investment and price proposals for the next five years, only one in five told us that they found the company’s plans acceptable. Furthermore, about half said that Bristol Water’s suggested £45 rise in bills would be unaffordable. Most customers, however, told us they could accept an £11 average price increase by 2015, as put forward by the regulator, Ofwat.

“We are disappointed that the Competition Commission did not take full account of the research that we did with Bristol Water’s customers. This showed most customers willing to accept a modest rise in bills but not at the level the Competition Commission has decided. A £23 average increase on top of the rate of inflation will not be seen as a small rise in bills by many customers. It will be difficult for many customers to accept, or even manage to pay, as today one in six customers tell us that their bills are unaffordable.

“We need to take time to go through the information when it becomes available, and we will be working with Bristol Water on how they will deliver these investments for customers over the next four years to make sure that Bristol Water customers receive the best service possible for their money.”