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Water company crackdown: why did our taps run dry following the Beast from the East?

Regulator criticises firms focused on financial engineering at the expense of public service

The water regulator has promised to make reforms to ‘make it even clearer that companies must put customers at the heart of everything they do’.

Ofwat chairman Jonson Cox has set out its agenda to improve the performance of water companies after heavy criticisms they failed to plan for the Beast from the East.

In the days following the February cold snap, tens of thousands of people were left without water in parts of London and the South East of England – some for days – because main lines froze and burst.

Join the conversation: have your taps ever run dry?

Mr Cox said in a letter to written to environment secretary, Michael Gove: ‘Some water companies appear to be focused too much on financial engineering at the expense of public service.

‘Alongside this, we’ve seen significant service failures, most recently following last month’s cold snap and quick thaw, which led to tens of thousands of customers being left without water.

‘All of these things have damaged trust in water. Ofwat has been pushing water companies to up their game for some time; but we need to go further, faster.’

Mr Cox said Ofwat will reform company licences to ‘make it even clearer that companies must put customers at the heart of everything they do’ by:

  • Stepping up demands on transparency around dividends and profits
  • And expected companies to meet their obligations before making dividend payments.

It said it also expected water company boards to explain executive bonuses by reference to exceptional delivery for customers.

Can I claim compensation if my water supply’s cut off?

If your water supply stops – whether it’s because of planned engineering work or an emergency – you could get some money back.

But there are different rules for compensation depending on the reason.

See our free guide to get money back if your water supply stops.

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