Watchdog working with retailers to address root causes of complaints

Retailers operating in the new water market are working closely with the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) to tackle the root causes of a rise in complaints from businesses to the watchdog.

CCWater received 559 complaints from non-household customers during the second quarter of the year – around three times as many as the same period last year.

The watchdog had expected to see an increase in contact from businesses while the industry adjusts to the new non-household retail market, which opened on 1 April. However, complaints to it have increased at a faster rate during the second quarter and CCWater is putting pressure on all retailers to reverse that trend in the coming months.

It has been working with retailers behind the scenes to address some of the emerging difficulties which have caused concern for customers. This has already led to improvements, including clearer communication to make it easier to get in touch with retailers and additional training for frontline customer service staff.

Evan Joanette, Policy Manager for Markets and Competition, said: “Retailers have shown a willingness to work with us to try to ensure some of the initial teething problems are quickly rectified.”

“Moving forward we want to see the market delivering a better service for every customer, including small and medium sized businesses. If retailers fail to live up to those expectations, we would encourage customers to look elsewhere.”

Around nine out of ten contacts CCWater received from non-household customers between July and September 2017 were from SMEs, which included almost 350 enquiries.

Billing and charges (324) made up the majority of complaints during a quarter when more customers would have received their first bill from their new retailer. CCWater will be challenging retailers to make sure that their bills and charges make sense to customers.

There has also been a significant rise in complaints about administration, compared to the same quarter in 2016, with 124 customers unhappy about the communication with their retailer. CCWater will continue to gauge whether some retailers need to bolster their customer service teams to improve the experience for customers.

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