Water firm complaints riseConsumer gripes are up 10 per cent on last year

13 July 2006

 

Householder complaints about water companies are up 10 per cent on the same period last year, according to new figures out today.

Billing issues are the biggest consumer gripe and make up more than a third of the 6,274 complaints to the Consumer Council for Water in the period between October 2005 and March this year.

The consumer watchdog said the main causes for the rise were increasing complaints about United Utilities, which serves the north west of England and Severn Trent Water.

Complaints about United Utilities (1,138 complaints) were up by 41 per cent while grumbles about Severn Trent (1,100 complaints) surged by 55.6 per cent.

Significant increase

Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said:

'Although the majority of customers are still satisfied with their water and sewerage services, we are concerned about the significant increase in consumer complaints. However, we have been working this past year with an industry under pressure.'

Dame Yve added: 'Current drought restrictions, combined with above-inflation price rises, company profit announcements, and a Serious Fraud Office investigations into one water company are causing consumer unease and have brought to the surface a number of lurking negative views of the industry.'

Top customer concerns were unmetered bills, which saw a 66 per cent increase in complaints, metered bills – up 40 per cent and delays in connections to the mains, which were up 35 per cent.

Dame Yve continued: 'From our research we know that consumer trust is getting stretched. They expect to see companies get their service right first time.

Stretching trust

'The thousands of complaints and enquiries we receive each year, alongside research, are important in keeping us in touch with consumers' real concerns. They help us to advocate more effectively for all consumers, and get them a better deal from the water companies.'