UK water watchdog welcomes proposed deal on water prices

LONDON, UK, July 23, 2009 -- The Consumer Council for Water reports that Ofwat has listened to customers when putting together its draft decisions on water price limits in England and Wales from 2010 to 2015...

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LONDON, UK, July 23, 2009 -- The Consumer Council for Water is pleased that the regulator, Ofwat, seems to have listened to customers when putting together its draft decisions on water price limits in England and Wales from 2010 to 2015.

Ofwat is proposing that, before taking inflation into account, bills reduce for many customers across England and Wales, bringing the average annual water and sewerage bill down from £344 to £330 by 2015. However, because prices vary from company to company, customers in different areas could face a range of price changes from a reduction in average annual bills as much as 14 per cent, to an increase in bills of 9 per cent before inflation over the five years.

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Draft water company average bills for 2009-2010

Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: "This is the first time that the Consumer Council for Water, as an independent body representing water customers, has been involved in the price setting process. We have been negotiating hard, pushing each water company and Ofwat to develop plans that will deliver what consumers want at a reasonable price.

"We are pleased to see that by and large it looks as though Ofwat listened to us and to customers when putting together draft decisions on water prices. Today's announcement should be seen as reasonable by many customers.

"However, customers must remember that these are average prices, so changes in water bills could vary from company to company and customer to customer, depending on their circumstances. Over the next month we will take time to go through Ofwat's draft decisions in detail to understand the full package of what customers are getting.

"We would not want lower prices to mean an unacceptable reduction in service to customers, and we want to be sure that those areas consumers told us are their priorities have not been reduced, or cut altogether from the companies' plans, and that there are no hidden surprises that could mean higher prices in the future.

"Even if prices are to go down overall, there is still an issue of affordability for many water customers. When we ask 'are your water bills affordable?' one in five customers tells us no. We are concerned that a reduction in prices still isn't enough to solve the problem, and we will continue to press government to provide better support for these people.

"We will be asking customers what they think of Ofwat's draft decisions through customer research, and we would also welcome anyone to give us their views by visiting www.ccwater.org.uk.

"We will make customers' views known to Ofwat to make sure that the regulator continues to take consumers' priorities into account when they make their final decision on prices in November."

The Consumer Council for Water 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.

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