Water complaints down - but not out!

20 September 2011

Media contact: CCWater Media team 0121 345 1006 or 0776 651 1753

CCWater 05/11

The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) revealed today (20 Sept) that customer complaints to water companies in England and Wales are down, however it has also warned that some companies still have a long way to go.

Figures from the 2010/11 report on Complaint Handling in the Water Industry in England and Wales show that overall industry complaints reduced by 4.5 per cent year-on-year, representing the third year of the downward trend following substantial pressure on poor performing companies by CCWater.

United Utilities was the worst performing water and sewerage company handling 39,000 complaints, coupled with a disappointing increase of 6.7 per cent on the previous year. The report also highlights that despite South East Water reducing their numbers by 9.6 per cent they remained the worst performing water–only company with over 8,000 complaints.

Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, Dame Yve Buckland, said: “It is good news for many customers that complaint levels are down and overall results look promising. We will continue to exert pressure on those companies who are underperforming until they match the best. CCWater is there to help water customers who have hit a brick wall with their complaint. In four out of five cases we step in to get the company to improve what is has done for the consumer.”

Despite a marked reduction, South West Water still received more than the industry’s average number of complaints, traditionally linked to its higher prices. Southern Water built on their significant reduction the previous year, reducing their figures by a further 19.1 per cent. Yorkshire Water’s increase of 23 per cent last year is disappointing, however overall they still received very low numbers of complaints per customer served.

There was also room for improvement in Wales, where Dee Valley Water’s complaints rose by 24.6 per cent following a 44 per cent increase the previous year. Dwr Cymru Welsh Water worked to reduce its complaint numbers by 17.1 per cent; however when looking at the numbers of customers it serves it still remains one of the poorer performing companies.

On a positive note, water companies with already low complaint numbers saw a further decrease, including Wessex Water (-39.3), Veolia Water East (-20.4) and Northumbrian Water (-6.8).

Water companies with a considerable drop in the percentage of complaints received last year also included Bristol Water (41.6) and Veolia Water Central (35.8). Portsmouth Water and Veolia Water South East cause very few of their customers to complain.

Since 2005 CCWater has worked hard pressing the industry to reverse the previous upward trend. Overall customer complaints to water companies have reduced by almost a third over the past three years but are still nearly 27 per cent higher than at their lowest level. The consumer watchdog has helped customers secure over £12 million in compensation and rebates from water companies and taken over 86,000 complaints.

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Water complaints down - but not out!

Notes for editors

1. The full report is available at www.ccwater.org.uk.  
2. Figures are based on the numbers of written complaints (including emails) received by companies.
3. The following tables show the number of complaints each company received for every 10,000 customers and the number of complaints direct to water companies. Using complaints per 10,000 customers compares companies more evenly, because it takes into account the number of customers each company serves.

The Consumer Council for Water

1. The Consumer Council for Water was set up in October 2005 to represent consumers in England and Wales.
2. The Consumer Council for Water costs each water customer 21p per year.
3. The Consumer Council for Water has gained £135 million from water companies in reduced prices and extra investments.
4. The Consumer Council for Water has to date taken up 86,000 consumer complaints about water and sewerage companies, and secured £12 million in compensation and rebates for customers.
5. The Consumer Council for Water is a non-departmental public body reporting to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Assembly Government. It has a committee for Wales, and four regional committees in England.
6. Our website is www.ccwater.org.uk.

For public enquiries to the Consumer Council for Water, please contact via email on enquiries@ccwater.org.uk,  our national number, 0845 039 2837, or via minicom on 0121 345 1044.

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