More rights for water customers

Water customers are to receive more rights, with new measures announced by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) which are intended to drive up service standards and increase levels of compensation.

Increased consumer rights have been proposed by the water industry regulator, OFWAT, to update the existing Guaranteed Standards Scheme, which covers the service standards that water companies in England and Wales are required to meet.

The new customer rights will mean that:

  • when water companies fail to meet specified standards, compensation pay-outs will increase from £10 to £20 for domestic users, and from £10 to £50 for business customers;
  • a new two-hour time band for appointments designed to save customers’ time will be available on request;
  • appointments made by telephone will now be subject to the regulations, not just those made in writing;
  • responses to written complaints and bill queries from customers must be sent by water companies within ten working days;
  • a minimum of 48 hour’s written notice must be given by water companies for planned supply interruptions of more than four hours;
  • the time for restoring an unplanned interrupted supply must be cut from 24 to 12 hours;
  • the restriction on payment for sewer flooding to one incident per financial year has been abolished and each time their home is flooded, customers must be refunded the same amount as their sewerage bill up to a maximum of £1000; and
  • automatic compensation payments must be made to customers who have had an interrupted water supply or sewer flooding.

“We want to guarantee that water companies put customers first,” said Environment Minister, Chris Mullin. “These new measures ensure that water companies must deliver higher standards of service and better levels of compensation than ever before.”

The new regulations will come into force on 20 September 2000, and apply to English companies and those operating partly in Wales. The National Assembly for Wales will also be able to amend the regulations, should they choose to do so, so that they also apply to the Dwr Cymru and Dee Valley water companies, which operate wholly in Wales.

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