Business customers sought help with more than 900 complaints as disputes over the accuracy and reliability of bills continued to cast a shadow over the non-household retail water market in the first quarter of the year.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has revealed that it handled 931 complaints from businesses during the first three months of 2019/20. And while that was marginally fewer than the previous quarter, the consumer body still received 162 more complaints than during the same period last year.
Complaints have been on the rise ever since the English market opened for business in April 2017 and the latest figures from the watchdog suggest a small number of poor performing retailers continue to cause customers the biggest concern.
These include two of last year’s worst performers – Clear Business Water and Everflow – with SES Business Water completing the bottom three based on complaints made to CCWater from April 2019 to the end of June 2019. Their performance was in stark contrast to Yorkshire Water Business, Water2Business and Affinity for Business who topped the rankings with the lowest levels of complaints among the larger retailers.
Dr Mike Keil, Head of Policy and Research at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Some retailers are still not getting the basics right by providing clear and reliable bills, which is the very least any customer should expect.”
“Shining a light on the three best and worst performing retailers for complaints each quarter is just one of the ways we hope to improve service across the market and empower customers to make a well-informed choice if they opt to switch.”
More than seven out of ten non-household complaints handled during the quarter related to billing and charges, with the bulk of these customers disputing the accuracy of the bills. Many other businesses found themselves at loggerheads with retailers over the payment of leakage allowances or inaccuracies on their account.
But there were at least signs that last year’s worst performer – Water Plus – may finally be heading in the right direction. Complaints made to CCWater about the market’s largest retailer fell by more than 16 per cent compared to the last three months of 2018/19. It remains above the industry average and the watchdog will continue to keep a close eye on its performance until that changes.