Water industry complaints drop

Complaints against the water industry have fallen
Complaints against the water industry have fallen

Customer complaints in the water industry dropped by almost 12 per cent last year, reaching their lowest level since 2005, according to a report from the Consumer Council for Water.

The council’s annual complaints report shows that a total of 163,027 written complaints were made to water companies across England and Wales in the year to March 31, 2012, compared to 185,140 in 2010/11.

It says the fact that complaints have now fallen for the fourth consecutive year indicates that continued pressure from the council is encouraging companies to work hard to improve their services and increase customer satisfaction.

Despite this reduction, seven of the 23 water and sewerage companies reporting an increase in complaints during the period.

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water said: “Customer complaints have been consistently decreasing since the council started putting pressure on water companies and identifying poor performers.

“Last year complaints fell at almost three times the rate of the previous year (2010/11). However, while most companies have made clear efforts to improve their service, there are still some that need to take action to address their high complaint levels.

“While water is currently a monopoly industry, companies must not rest on their laurels and assume that they can get away with delivering poor service. Today’s consumer expects more than that and CCWater will continue to support them in demanding a consistently good level of service across the country.”

The most improved company was Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water which received 58 per cent less customer complaints - a drop of just under 6,400 on the previous year. Wessex Water saw a reduction of 40 per cent or nearly 2,000 complaints, while United Utilities received an impressive 12,000 less complaints or 31 per cent. South West Water reduced complaints by 26 per cent which equates to almost 1,600 fewer complaints. Severn Trent Water reduced complaints by 14 per cent or nearly 3,500 less complaints.

The report shows that complaints in some areas of the South East of England rose significantly during the period, with several of the companies serving the region seeing increases – South East Water (+59 per cent), Thames Water (+13 per cent) and Southern Water (+4 per cent).

Complaints to South East Water increased by 59 per cent compared to the previous year – that’s an increase of almost 5,000 complaints - making it the worst performing company in the industry when comparing the number of complaints to the size of its customer base.

The council received more than 11,000 complaints against water companies in 2011/12. In many cases it was found that the company in question could have taken further action to avoid the complaint escalating and pressure from CCWater resulted in positive outcomes for customers. During the period CCWater helped customers receive compensation and bill reductions totalling £2.3m, bringing the total since 2005 to almost £15m.