Belfast Telegraph

Severn Trent says customer complaints fall by more than a quarter

Utility giant Severn Trent said customer complaints had fallen by more than a quarter despite a recent chlorine contamination scare that left thousands of households without water.

The group said it was "learning" from the supply woes, when the chlorine contamination scare saw 3,700 homes and businesses across Derbyshire told not to use water for more than 24 hours in March, while customers in the region were also hit by burst water mains and discolouration over the past few months.

Severn Trent agreed to pay compensation of £50 to affected homeowners and £100 to businesses after high levels of chlorine were found in the supply.

Customers were warned not to use the water in their taps - or even flush their toilets - as the water had been contaminated with at least eight times the normal level of chlorine.

But Severn Trent 's annual results showed customer complaints fell by 28% in the year to March 31 as it claimed to offer the UK's lowest combined average bills, at £329 in 2016/2017, which was flat on the previous year.

The group said: "On the downside there were some high profile events which left customers unable to access their water. We are learning from these to continually improve our processes and systems."

Underlying annual pre-tax profits fell 3.2% to £522.8 million, although on a statutory basis, profits more than doubled - up 118% to £322.3 million.

The group's turnover fell 0.8% to £1.8 billion due to a regulated price decrease.

Severn Trent also cut its shareholder dividend payout to 80.66p per share, down from 84.90p per share in 2015, although this was in line with its dividend policy.

Liv Garfield, chief executive of Severn Trent, said the group had made a "promising start" to the new regulatory period.

The group is also joining forces with rival United Utilities to compete to supply water to businesses.

They will combine their existing non-domestic supply arms into a new offering, to be called Water Plus, which will target business customers when competition in the market opens up in England for the first time next year. Water Plus will be based in Stoke-on-Trent.