London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — September 17, 2009 – Consumer complaints to water companies in England and Wales dropped by almost 15 percent last year compared with the previous year, according to the Consumer Council for Water’s latest survey.
In 2008-09 the industry average was 80 complaints per 10,000 customers, whereas in 2007-08 there were an average 91complaints per 10,000 customers.
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, Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water, Cambridge Water, Veolia Water Southeast (formerly Folkestone and Dover Water), Veolia Water East (formerly Tendring Hundred Water), Hartlepool Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, and Portsmouth Water. All of these had 30 or less complaints per 10,000 customers.
However, there are still companies that need to improve their complaints figures, the Council says. 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 rate of complaints, ranging from United’s 132 complaints per 10,000 customers to South East Water’s 114 complaints per 10,000 customers.
“We have pressed water companies with poor complaint numbers to improve their performance, and it is encouraging to see the response from many companies,” commented Consumer Council for Water chair Dame Yve Buckland.
Buckland added that customers are beginning to 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 majority of complaints in 2008-09 were about billing and charges, making up nearly 60 percent of total complaints. Complaints about metering were also prominent, increasing for the second year in a row to 6.1 percent of total complaints, up from 4.5 percent in the previous year.
The majority of the other complaints were about water or sewerage services.
“We will continue to press for improvements, and for all companies to put customers and their priorities first and foremost,” continued Buckland. “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.