Water companies face closer scrutiny after rise in complaints

The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has called on Southern Water and Affinity Water to improve their service after both companies reported a rise in complaints from customers.

Today’s (September 21) report by the consumer watchdog, CCWater, reveals that Southern Water was the industry’s worst performer for the fourth successive year after a rise of more than ten per cent in written customer complaints in 2015/16.

Affinity Water reported one of the biggest rises in complaints across the water industry – up 82.3 per cent – to leave it bottom of the pile of water only companies after three successive years of increases.

They were among ten water companies to see a rise despite a 0.5 per cent overall reduction in written complaints across England and Wales – down from 106,693 to 106,196. Telephone calls made by customers to water companies to resolve problems also continued to fall.1

Sir Tony Redmond, London and South East Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We’re disappointed by the performance of Southern and Affinity who have both failed to completely get to grips with the problems that have caused them to be among the worst performers.”

“I have written to both companies and asked them to report back to me by the end of October on what action they have taken, or are planning to take, to reduce complaints. We want to see that progress is being made.”

CCWater’s report shows that Southern Water failed to close the gap on the rest of the industry in 2015/16, with complaints more than twice the industry average.

The water watchdog was encouraged to see South East Water report the biggest reduction in complaints – down more than 38 per cent – to significantly improve its standing in the industry.

Thames Water also reported one of the largest reductions in complaints – down nearly 23 per cent during 2015/16.

You can read the full CCWater report here (pdf)

1 CCWater’s report focuses primarily on written complaints made by customers as these provide the most comparable and consistent way of assessing the performance of each water company. Information on unwanted telephone contacts is also included in the report. But these do not exclusively include complaints and can cover a wide range of telephone calls where customers have reported a service issue or had to chase their water company for action to be taken.