Complaints fallen by 20 per cent in last two years

Posted: Tuesday 29th November 2011

Ofwat, the economic regulator of the water and sewerage sector, has reported that although companies continue to deliver good levels of service to most consumers, there are still areas for concern.

Each year Ofwat scrutinises how 21 companies performed in delivering services to customers in England and Wales. Its 2010/11 “summary of performance” report shows that in many areas companies are performing well:

Yet there are areas for concern:

In June, Ofwat announced that fifteen water companies met their leakage targets in 2010/11, reducing leakage by a total of 18 Ml/d (million litres a day) – the equivalent of supplying a city about the size of Exeter with water for a year. But six companies failed to meet leakage targets.

Although investigations showed that none of the failures threatened customers’ water supplies, Ofwat takes such failures seriously. As a result, Yorkshire Water has committed to spending around £33 million of their own money tackling leakage and improving their pipe network. Southern Water will return £5 million to its customers for failing to deliver its planned reduction in leakage. Ofwat has put Anglian, Dŵr Cymru, Northumbrian - North East, and Severn Trent on report for their leakage failures.

Regina Finn, Ofwat Chief Executive Officer said:

"People can shop around for the best deal on many things, but not water. We are here to make sure customers get a fair deal. Services continue to improve, but this is no time for complacency.

“Where we have concerns about companies’ performance, we have made sure there are action plans in place to put the problem right, at no extra cost to customers.

“Customers tell us that leakage is an issue that matters to them. They need to have confidence that their company is doing their part to use water wisely. These failures send a poor signal about how companies value water.

“Leakage has reduced by around a third since its mid-90s peak. Most companies stepped up to the challenge of tackling leakage during another very cold winter. Those who didn’t, need to get back on track. Companies will be paying out around £38 million from their own pockets to fix these problems.”

Ofwat has also today published results of companies’ performance on customer service. This is the first year Ofwat has published results of its new customer service measure - the Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM). The SIM aims to make companies more customer-focused and improve customer service.

The results show that in general companies are performing well, but that some companies need to improve to catch up with the best performers.

The overall number of complaints is falling, with a 20 per cent decrease in the number of written complaints in the last two years. Customer satisfaction with the overall manner in which companies handled their contacts and concerns was high. Ofwat asked 17,000 customers to give their view of how well their company did on a scale of 1 to 5 (where 5 indicates they were ‘very satisfied’). The average score of all the companies was 4.2. This ranged from 3.79 (United Utilities) to 4.59 (Veolia Water East).

A full breakdown of results is available to view in Ofwat’s report “Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM) 2010-11”, while the overview of companies’ overall performance is available at “2010 -11 Summary of Performance report”.

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