Water complaints up 30%

Consumers sent nearly 250,000 written complaints to water and sewerage companies in 2006-07, a water watchdog has revealed.

The Consumer Council for Water report said this was an increase of nearly 30% compared to the previous year and there was an average of 80 unsatisfied customers in every 10,000.

The report, entitled Complaint Handling in the Water Industry in England and Wales 2006-07, marks the first time the watchdog has published information on written customer complaints to water and sewerage companies.

More than 109,000 complaints were about billing and charges – and the three worst companies for grievances of this nature were Thames Water, United Utilities and Severn Trent Water, which accounted for 78% of financial complaints.

More than 15% of customer complaints were about water services, such as supply, quality and pipes.

Dame Yve Buckland, national chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Water customers are becoming increasingly demanding of their companies.

“They see water companies making good profits and expert service to be, if not improving, then at the very least delivered to a good consistent and reliable standard.

“They also want complaints dealt with ‘right first time’.

“We will be pushing water companies to improve these figures and provide a much better level of customer service, comparable with the best in other service sectors.”

Severn Trent Water received the most complaints – a total of 68,874 or 166 per 10,000 customers. In 2005-06 it had only 36,239 written complaints.

Households supplied by South East Water were also unhappy with their service last year. Although the company received only 6,721 complaints, this represented 110 unsatisfied customers in every 10,000.

The figures suggest Portsmouth Water’s customers were the most satisfied, with just five in every 10,000 writing about their grievances, followed by Sutton and East Surrey Water, with 14 complaints per 10,000 customers.

Kate Martin

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