Water customers expect impartial chairs and greater transparency from CCGs

06 July 2015

Impartial chairs and greater transparency are vital to ensure Customer Challenge Groups1 (CCGs) have legitimacy in the eyes of customers, new research by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has revealed.

A Tide of Opinion: The Customer Voice in Price Setting is the first study since the conclusion of the 2014 Price Review to ask water customers what they think a credible CCG would look like when representing their views in the future.

Among its findings the report reveals that customers expect the Chairs of the groups to be impartial and independent - qualities which they believe could be undermined if the role is funded directly by a water company.

Instead customers supported the use of a ‘levy’ or ‘pooled funding’ from the water industry to pay for the Chairs in an effort to safeguard their independence.

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of CCWater, said: “Every CCG must be seen to have legitimacy in the eyes of customers. But that will only ever be achieved with an independent Chair who customers can trust to be completely impartial.”

Other key findings to emerge from the research include:
• Customers want to have a direct say on their water company’s proposals, with formal research and consultations seen as effective ways of capturing ‘the customer voice’.
• CCWater is seen as the ‘customer expert’ and is expected to play an important role on CCGs, while also ‘sticking up’ for customers outside of the Price Review.
• Chairs and members of CCGs should be appointed through a formal recruitment process, including a public advert and structured interview process.
• CCG membership should be refreshed on a regular basis so the groups hear new voices and avoid becoming stagnated.
• Customers expect CCGs to act transparently, including publishing the minutes of meetings.
• Customers expect to hear feedback from the groups on what they have done.

CCWater will now work with water companies who have yet to establish their new CCGs to ensure customers’ views influence the set up and governance of the groups, including how the Chair of each one is paid.

You can read the full research report here

For more information call the CCWater media team on 0121 345 1005.

Customer Challenge Groups (CCGs) were established by each water company to scrutinise their price and service plans for 2015 to 2020, as part of the price-setting process. The groups report back to the regulator Ofwat on how well a water company has engaged with customers and reflected their views in its proposals.

The Consumer Council for Water:
• Was set up in October 2005 to represent consumers in England and Wales
• Costs each water customer an average of 21p per year
• Has helped more than 300,000 customers with complaints or enquiries and secured over £20 million in compensation and rebates for customers
• Is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Government
• Has a committee for Wales and four regional committees in England
• Website: www.ccwater.org.uk
• Follow us on Twitter - @WaterWatchdog

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