Customer complaints about retailers to the Water Watchdog hit a record high during the second quarter of 2018/19 – pouring cold water on the promising progress made earlier in the year.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) received 1,110 complaints from non-household customers between 1 July and 30 September this year, making it the worst quarter since the market opened in April 2017.
The increase has undermined the improvement witnessed by the consumer body during the first three months of 2018/19 when complaints fell for the first time since the launch of non-household retail competition in England.
One of the biggest reasons for the increase was a 64 per cent rise in complaints about one of the market’s largest retailers – Water Plus – compared to the previous quarter.
Evan Joanette, Policy Manager at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We’re disappointed that some retailers have not been able to keep up the momentum we witnessed during the spring.”
“Poor performers should be under no illusion that we will publicly hold them to account if they don’t get their act together. The market is well-established now – there’s no room for excuses.”
CCWater has held a series of meetings with Water Plus to establish the root causes of its customers’ grievances and what steps it is taking to get back on track.
Robert Light, Northern Chair for the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We are working with Water Plus to help them resolve many of the long-standing issues that have generated their increase in complaints and we expect the company to significantly improve its performance in the coming months.”
Complaints from non-household customers during the second quarter of 2018/19 were almost double what they were at the same time last year – with billing and charges being the main cause for the increase in complaints.
However, around half of retailers were able to sustain the improved performance on complaints we saw from them in the first quarter of this year.
Some companies have developed better guidance and taken up training with the market operator, MOSL, to help improve the delivery of services like trade effluent charging.
Wholesalers also have an important role to play in helping to resolve some of the issues that customers encounter. That’s why CCWater recently hosted a workshop which brought together more than 20 retailers and wholesalers to share good practice and look at ways to resolve customers’ most pressing concerns.
Customers who are unhappy with the service they are receiving from their retailer should visit the Open Water website to explore their switching options https://www.open-water.org.uk/