Water companies warned to improve following rise in complaints
Four water companies have been singled out for improvement following a rise in complaints.
Independent industry body, the Consumer Council for Water has warned water companies Affinity, Bournemouth, Dŵr Cymru, and Southern to improve.
It comes after Dŵr Cymru reported a 115.1% increase in complaints in 2015/16 compared to 2014/15, while Bournemouth saw complaints rise by 90.6% over the year, Affinity by 82.3%, and Southern by 10.3%.
For the fourth consecutive year Southern was also the worst performing company based on the number of complaints it received - at over 77 complaints per 10,000 customers - more than twice the industry average of 33.7.
The Consumer Council for Water says Dŵr Cymru and Bournemouth have been hit by problems caused by the introduction of a new billing system and more rigorous debt collection, while Affinity has been hit by complaints about its compulsory metering programme, and customer service staffing issues.
However, it says these issues can’t be used as an excuse. In its report published today it states: “We have stressed continually to companies that when they implement new billing systems they must ensure that they take all necessary steps to avoid customer detriment. It is not fair on customers that this issue continues to arise.”
Tony Smith, chief executive of the Consumer Council for Water, adds: “What is particularly alarming is the very substantial increase in complaints some companies have reported.
“We can’t allow the good progress that has been made by the industry in recent years to be reversed. That’s why we have asked four of the poorest performing companies to report to us by the end of October on what action they have taken, or are planning to take, to reduce complaints.”
Seven other companies operating across England and Wales - Essex & Suffolk, Hartlepool, Northumbrian, Sutton & East Surrey, Northumbrian, Yorkshire, and United Utilities - also reported increasing complaints.
Overall complaints down
Overall, water and sewerage companies in England and Wales reported 106,196 written complaints in 2015/16 from household and non-household customers, compared to 106,693 for 2014/15, a decrease of just under 0.5%.
The number of contacts from customers who had to make an unwanted telephone call to their water company to resolve an issue or complaint also fell, by 8.2% on the previous year to just over 200,000.
Portsmouth regained its position as the best performing water company with fewer than 10 complaints per 10,000 customers.