Consumer Council for Water
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Handful of water companies cause rise in water complaints
A report released today (Tuesday 9 September) by the Consumer Council for Water reveals that specific problems within a few water companies caused an 11 per cent rise in complaints last year, while complaints to many other water companies either remained steady or fell.
Difficulties with the introduction of a new billing system led to a 155 per cent increase in complaints to Southern Water. Complaints to Anglian Water went up by 56 per cent, also because of trouble with the introduction of a new billing system, and South East Water saw complaints rise by 55 per cent on top of already high complaint figures.
Southern Water, South East Water and South West Water had the highest number of complaints after taking into account the number of customers that each company serves (complaints per 10,000 customers). Customer dissatisfaction with South West Water's prices traditionally contribute to high numbers of complaints to the company.
On a more positive note, complaints to Severn Trent Water fell by a third as it began to overcome problems from the year before, while other water companies continued to receive relatively few complaints, such as Yorkshire Water, Northumbrian Water, Portsmouth Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, Hartlepool Water, Tendring Hundred Water and Folkestone and Dover Water.
Complaints to the Consumer Council for Water about water companies' service reflected a similar pattern. For example, when Southern Water staff were unable to handle the large increase of complaints themselves, frustrated consumers, with nowhere else to turn, contacted the Consumer Council for Water. This tripled the number of complaints about Southern Water to the water watchdog from the year before.
Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: "It is very disappointing that a few water companies are responsible for the overall rise in complaints.
"Without the high increases in complaints to Southern Water, Anglian Water and South East Water, figures for the industry overall would have dropped.
"It is even more disappointing that for the third year in a row, the rise in complaints has been heavily influenced by individual water companies introducing new billing systems that have gone wrong. Companies need to keep in mind that the changes they make do have an impact on consumers.
"Billing system problems take a long time to put right. It would be in the companies' best interest to work together, learn from each other's mistakes and replicate the systems that do work.
"While minor problems can happen, it is possible to introduce new billing systems without causing a surge in complaints. Yorkshire Water, for example, was able to change their billing system without disrupting customers.
"Just because they cannot choose their water supplier, customers should not have to put up with sub-standard service. We will continue to press water and sewerage companies to raise their standards of service, provide clear benefits to consumers and place consumer priorities at the heart of future plans."
Last year the Consumer Council for Water helped customers secure £1.76 million in compensation and rebates from water companies, and has so far worked with water companies to bring customers an extra £130 million in benefits, either through extra investments or reduced prices.
For the full report go to http://www.ccwater.org.uk
Note for editors
1. The following tables show the number of complaints direct to all water and sewerage companies and water only companies, with the same breakdown of complaints per 10,000 customers.
Number of Complaints to Water Companies
Water & Sewerage Company 06-07 07-08 Difference % Change Southern Water Services Ltd 18979 48328 29349 154.64 Anglian Water Services Ltd 16645 25891 9246 55.55 United Utilities Water 24193 31920 7727 31.94 South West Water Services 7810 9446 1636 20.95 Ltd Wessex Water Services Ltd 6547 7773 1226 18.73 Yorkshire Water Services 5193 5255 62 1.19 Ltd Dwr Cymru Welsh Water 10586 10628 42 0.40 Northumbrian Water 7449 7333 -116 -1.56 Thames Water Utilities Ltd 56914 52174 -4740 -8.33 Severn Trent Water Ltd. 68874 45710 -23164 -33.63 Water Only Company 06-07 07-08 Difference % Change South East Water Ltd 6721 10400 3679 54.74 Three Valleys Water 3419 4763 1344 39.31 Services plc Dee Valley Water plc 258 348 90 34.88 Bristol Water plc 2685 3058 373 13.89 Portsmouth Water plc 156 175 19 12.18 Mid Kent Water plc 941 1040 99 10.52 South Staffordshire Water 2825 2866 41 1.45 plc Essex & Suffolk Water 4048 3979 -69 -1.70 Cambridge Water Company 465 453 -12 -2.58 Sutton & East Surrey Water 379 357 -22 -5.80 plc Tendring Hundred Water 158 140 -18 -11.39 Services Ltd Folkestone and Dover Water 163 142 -21 -12.88 Services Bournemouth & West 921 759 -162 -17.59 Hampshire Water Hartlepool 88 59 -29 -32.95 Total of Complaints 246417 272997 26580 10.8 Received
Complaints per 10k Customers 2007-2008
Water & Sewerage Company Complaints Southern Water Services Ltd 248 South West Water Services Ltd 122 Severn Trent Water Ltd. 109 United Utilities Water 97 Thames Water Utilities Ltd 94 Anglian Water Services Ltd 91 Dwr Cymru Welsh Water 71 Wessex Water Services Ltd 64 Northumbrian Water 59 Yorkshire Water Services Ltd 23 Water Only Company Complaints South East Water Ltd 169 Bristol Water plc 61 South Staffordshire Water plc 52 Essex & Suffolk Water 51 Mid Kent Water plc 41 Three Valleys Water Services plc 38 Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water 38 Cambridge Water Company 35 Dee Valley Water plc 29 Folkestone and Dover Water Services 19 Tendring Hundred Water Services Ltd 19 Hartlepool 14 Sutton & East Surrey Water plc 13 Portsmouth Water plc 6 Industry Average 91
By using complaints per 10,000 customers, companies can be compared more evenly because this takes into account the number of customers each company serves
The Consumer Council for Water
1. The Consumer Council for Water represents consumers in England and Wales.
2. The Consumer Council for Water is the statutory water consumer body, and operates as 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 at local level is supported by four regional committees in England.
3. Our website is http://www.ccwater.org.uk.
For public enquiries to the Consumer Council for Water, please contact via email on firstname.lastname@example.org, our national number, 0845 039 2837, or via minicom on 0121 345 1044.
Please call to book Chief Executive Tony Smith for media interviews - available for interviews Tuesday 9 September. Regional spokespeople will also be available.
The Consumer Council for Water Victoria Square House, Victoria Square, Birmingham B2 4AJ