Hafren Dyfrdwy under pressure to reduce high numbers of complaints

Hafren Dyfrdwy has been warned by the consumer watchdog that it must show a marked improvement after reporting a sharp rise in complaints.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has called on the supplier to reverse a 42 per cent increase in the number of customers that had to pick up the phone to resolve service problems in 2018/19. There was also a 154 per cent rise in written complaints in its first year since replacing Dee Valley Water, following a takeover by Severn Trent Water.

It’s one of four companies across England and Wales that have been challenged over their poor performance in the consumer group’s annual household complaints report (pdf). Hafren Dyfrdwy must now provide CCWater with quarterly reports highlighting what steps it is taking to get back on track.

Phil Marshall, Deputy Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “The number of complaints Hafren has generated is a huge concern to us and reflects some of the wider problems customers have experienced.”

“There has been a rise in disruption to customers’ water supply while changes to bills and the way people are charged during the transition to the new company has caused further frustration. We want to see a marked improvement in Hafren’s service levels in the coming months.”

Hafren was the worst performing water company for complaints about billing and charges based on CCWater’s comparative measure, as many households struggled to get to grips with a new bill layout and changes to the way they were charged. The transition from Dee Valley to Hafren also coincided with a rise in interruptions to people’s supply of water, with some households frustrated by a lack of information during periods of disruption.

Across England and Wales as a whole, households had to make just over 2 million calls to water companies to resolve issues with service – about 60,000 less than the previous year. That outweighed the increase in complaints made in writing which rose by nearly 5,400.

However, more customers needed CCWater’s support resolving a dispute in 2018/19 as the watchdog stepped in to help return over £600,000 in financial redress to households that were let down by their supplier.

You can read the full CCWater report here (pdf)

Notes to editors

The report compares companies’ performance on a measure called ‘unwanted contacts’. These telephone calls do not just include complaints and can cover a wide range of contacts where customers have reported a service issue or had to chase their water company for action to be taken.

Hafren Dyfrdwy was a new company created in July 2018 after Severn Trent Water completed the acquisition of Dee Valley Water. The changes in supply area following the takeover mean comparisons with Dee Valley’s performance in 2017/18 should be treated with some caution.

We compare individual company performance based on complaints per 10,000 connected households, to account for the differences in company size.

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