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Guaranteed Standards Scheme: Call to Evidence

This call for evidence is to ask water companies and other stakeholders about water company service standards, known as the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS).

GSS has been in place for over 30 years. Over that time, there has been little change to either the standards of service or the statutory payments to customers. Given the changes that have taken place over the last two decades, within the water industry, the wider economy, and in consumers’ expectations, we want to understand if the GSS in its current form still adequately supports customers and reflects the impact that incidents have on those who experience poor service.

As a starting point for this work, we conducted research that asked customers for their views on GSS. We published this last month and it highlighted that currently there is low awareness of the scheme. When introduced to the standards, customers felt there was a need for more individualised support for people with extra needs; and that payments should be linked to inflation. They also highlighted a gap in standards that focus on water quality.

We now want to hear from water companies and other stakeholders what they think of the current GSS, and our suggestions about how GSS could be updated and improved. We will also be setting up an industry working group to help us consider the responses and develop the issues further and Ofwat will be joining us in this work. Ultimately, we aim to develop a set of recommendations for changes to the GSS and a framework for taking work in this area forward.

Speaking about the work to review the GSS, Andrew Lincoln, Customer Policy Lead at Ofwat said:

Customer service standards requiring companies to offer compensation have been in place for over 30 years.  It is right that we take this moment to question whether the Guaranteed Standards Scheme needs to be modernised so that customers are better protected when service falls short. This complements the steps that Ofwat is taking to ensure the water sector better reflects customer expectations, drives higher standards of customer service and supports the full diversity of customer needs.

The questions we have asked as part of the call for evidence include:

  • Within the current standards what works well and why?
  • Are there new standards that should be added, are there others that are out of date and need revising and if so, how?
  • Should payments better reflect the impact of service failures on customers, taking into consideration both the direct financial costs and the inconvenience?
  • Should different service standards apply for customers who need extra help or who have been identified as needing extra help, especially those on the priority services register?

The deadline to submit views on the GSS is 13 October 2023.

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