Water companies see decline in direct complaints

A total of 185,140 direct complaints were made to water companies in England in Wales between April 2010 and March 2011, a reduction of 4.5% on the previous year, according to the latest report from consumer watchdog The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) released today (September 20).

The 2010/11 Complaint Handling in the Water Industry in England and Wales report showed the reduction in the total direct complaints despite very mixed performances from individual companies.

Comparing water-only companies, Bristol Water saw the best percentage improvement in direct complaints, with a year-on-year reduction of 41.6% to 2,006. Conversely, Cambridge Water came bottom of the table, as complaints increased by 55.8% to 418.

However, looking at the number of complaints received per 10,000 customers, therefore providing a more level playing field by removing the company’s size as a factor, the picture is very different. Cambridge Water actually outperformed Bristol Water using these parameters.

Portsmouth Water had the lowest number of complaints per 10,000, while South East Water was the only water company to exceed the industry average of 60.8. It also had the highest number of direct complaints at 8,232, despite managing an overall reduction of almost 10%.

Of those companies providing water and sewerage services Wessex Water received the fewest complaints at 4,691, a year-on-year reduction of 39.3%. At the other end of the scale Yorkshire Water was the poorest performer in percentage terms seeing complaints increase 23.3% to 9,561 in the period.

United Utilities, however, was the poorest performer across the board with both the highest number of complaints overall at 39,004, a 6.7% increase on the previous year, and the most complaints per 10,000, having come close to receiving double the industry average.

Commenting on the findings, CCWater chair Dame Yve Buckland said: “It is good news for many customers that complaint levels are down and overall results look promising. We will continue to exert pressure on those companies who are underperforming until they match the best.”

The full report is available at www.ccwater.org.uk

Will Parsons

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