Complaints to water companies fall for fifth successive year

But companies warned they face backlash if they fail to deliver value for money

Customer complaints against water companies have fallen for the fifth year in a row but the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) is warning the poor performers that they must close the gap with the rest of the industry.

CCWater’’s annual Written Customer Complaints Report has revealed a 7.4 per cent reduction in the number of written complaints made by customers against water companies in England and Wales, although the fall is less than the previous year’s 12 per cent drop.

Telephone calls made by customers to companies to resolve problems have also fallen broadly in line with written complaints, with a similar slowing in that trend this year.

Tony Smith, chief executive of CCWater, said: “”We are concerned the rate at which complaints have fallen has slowed and the poorest performers remain too far behind the rest of the industry.

“CCWater continues to meet regularly with water companies to put pressure on them to prioritise customer service in order to see their complaint levels drop much further. We also continue to tell the regulator Ofwat that there needs to be stronger penalties for water companies who are failing to satisfy the expectations of their customers.””

Billing and charges remains the biggest area of concern for customers, accounting for over 56 per cent of the total 150,942 written complaints made in the year to 31 March 2013.

And with water price limits for 2015 to 2020 set to be agreed next year, CCWater has warned companies they could face a backlash with customer complaints if they fail to deliver clear value for money.

The water watchdog also remains concerned that the poorest performing companies are still lagging too far behind the rest of the industry on complaint numbers.

These include Southern Water which saw the biggest surge in written complaints – a 77 per cent increase compared to the previous year – making it the worst performing company.

And despite a reduction of nearly 33 per cent, South East Water’s number of complaints remains twice the industry average.

But there were encouraging signs of progress in other parts of the country including the north west where United Utilities has worked closely with CCWater and invested in improving its customer service. This has reduced the company’s complaints by nearly 40 per cent.

Whilst Thames Water reduced written complaints by 6.5 per cent, it remained the only company to fall short of CCWater’s target to resolve 90 per cent of complaints first time.
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For more information or to arrange an interview call Tim Clarke or Kate Eccles on 0121 345 1005/1006

Notes to editors

The full report can be viewed here

  • The report monitors written complaints to water and sewerage companies, received by letter, fax or email.
  • Telephone complaints are not included in this report but water companies do record unwanted contacts, where customers have had to call a company to try and resolve a problem. These calls have followed a similar pattern of decline to written complaints.
  • Because water companies are different sizes the report compares their performance by complaints per 10,000 customer connections.
  • Wessex Water was the best performing water and sewerage company based on complaints per 10,000 customer connections, with Portsmouth Water the best performing water-only company.
  • Since it was established in 2005, CCWater has helped more than 300,000 customers with complaints or enquiries about water and sewerage services and secured over £16million in compensation and rebates.

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