Almost half of the water industry in England and Wales saw an increase in written customers complaints last year.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) reveals 10 out of 21 firms reported a rise in written customer complaints and is concerned the downward trend of the previous years could return if companies don’t take positive action to improve their performance.
While the overall number of written complaints to the industry fell for an eight consecutive year, it was only marginally by 0.5% – down from 106,693 to 106,196.
Southern Water was the worst performing company for the fourth consecutive year, with more than 77 complaints per 10,000 customers – more than twice the industry average.
Affinity was the worst performing water only company for complaints per 100,000 customers, with problems last year compounded by additional customer contact generated by its compulsory metering programme and staffing issues which led to delayed responses.
Wessex Water was the best performing water and sewerage company again, putting it way ahead of the rest of the utilities and leading the way in customer service.
Portsmouth Water regained its position as the best performing water only company, overtaking Cambridge Water which still remains a consistently good performer.
South Staffs was the third best performing water only company, recording fewer complaints for the fifth consecutive year.
Problems caused by the introduction of a new billing system and more rigorous debt collection led to a doubling of complaints to Welsh Water. Bournemouth also had problems with introducing a new billing system and complaints rose by more than 90%.
Welsh Water, Bournemouth, Affinity and Southern Water have been asked to submit interim reports covering the first six months of 2016/17 “to assure customers that companies are addressing the rise in their complaint numbers”.
Tony Smith, Chief Executive of CCWater said: “What is particularly alarming is the very substantial increase in complaints some companies have reported.”
“We can’t allow the good progress that has been made by the industry in recent years to be reversed. That’s why we have asked four of the poorest performing companies to report to us by the end of October on what action they have taken, or are planning to take, to reduce complaints.”
Telephone calls made by customers to water companies continued to fall last year.