Water retailers fail to get business complaints down

Water retailers have failed to “turn the tide” on business complaints, which have remained high in the second year of the open market, the Consumer Council for Water has warned.

The water watchdog has published new figures which reveal it received 1,037 complaints from businesses about water retailers during the third quarter of 2018/19 – almost 200 more than during the same period last year.

Grievances about billing and charges accounted for the large majority (seven out of ten) of the complaints received by CCWater between October and December 2018, with poor market data often the root cause of problems.

CCWater policy manager Evan Joanette said: “The market was supposed to simplify billing for businesses, not create an unnecessary headache for them.

“Some retailers have demonstrated it is possible to drive down complaints and deliver a better level of service. As we approach the second anniversary of competition, we need to see an improving picture across the whole market.”

The third quarter saw only a marginal improvement on the second quarter – which was the worst three-month period for complaints to CCWater since the market opened in April 2017.

One of the biggest reasons for the increase was a 64 per cent rise in complaints about one of the market’s largest retailers – Water Plus – compared with the previous quarter.

However, speaking at Utility Week’s Water Customer Conference in January, Water Plus chief executive Andy Hughes said around 60 per cent of these complaints relate to a wholesaler issue.

In the summer, CCWater will publish its second annual report giving non-household customers the chance to compare the complaints performance of retailers.

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