LONDON, UK, Sept. 16, 2009 -- The Consumer Council for Water revealed today that overall complaints to water companies in England and Wales dropped last year by nearly 15 percent. A few companies had significant improvements in complaint figures as they recovered from problems in previous years, bringing the industry average down.
Companies with a considerable drop in complaints included Severn Trent Water, with 40 percent fewer complaints, and Thames Water, with nearly 27 percent fewer complaints on the previous year's figures. Southern Water's complaints dropped by 48 percent but it still had a high number of complaints in comparison to other companies.
Other water companies continued to receive relatively few complaints, such as Yorkshire Water, Wessex Water, Portsmouth Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, Hartlepool Water, Cambridge Water, Veolia Water East (formerly Tendring Hundred Water) and Veolia Water Southeast (formerly Folkestone and Dover Water).
However, there are still companies that need to improve complaints figures. Last year complaints to United Utilities rose by over 36 percent, and United Utilities, Southern Water, South East Water and South West Water had the highest number of complaints for the number of customers they serve (complaints per 10,000 customers).
Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: "We have pressed water companies with poor complaint numbers to improve their performance, and it is encouraging to see the response from many companies. For example, complaints to Severn Trent Water and Thames Water both dropped for a second year in a row.
"Customers are beginning to tell us that they can see a difference in service. Of those who needed to get in touch with their water company last year, 81 percent told us they were happy with the way the contact was handled. The year before that figure was 71 percent. At the same time, nine out of ten customers tell us that they are satisfied with the service provided by their water company.
"The figures show a step in the right direction, but it is not good news for all water customers. We are still particularly concerned with South East Water's complaint figures. For a smaller company that only provides water, and is not involved in the sewerage side of the business, South East Water's complaint figures are very poor, and they have been for several years.
"We will continue to press for improvements, and for all companies to put customers and their priorities first and foremost. We are also pressing Ofwat to improve the incentives for water companies to provide better service."
Last year the Consumer Council for Water helped customers secure £2.5 million in compensation and rebates from water companies, 40 percent more than the year before. Since 2005 the water watchdog has also encouraged companies to share their profits with consumers, worth an extra £135 million in benefits through extra investments or reduced prices for consumers.
The full report is available at www.ccwater.org.uk.
The Consumer Council for Water
The Consumer Council for Water was set up in October 2005 to represent consumers in England and Wales. It is a non-departmental public body reporting to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Assembly Government. It has a committee for Wales, and four committees in England.