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Water companies urged to improve fairness and value for money

The Consumer Council for Water found just six in 10 water customers think their charges are fair.

Water companies must act to improve “unimpressive” levels of fairness and value for money, a watchdog has warned.

Just six in 10 water customers in England and Wales believe their charges are fair – a figure that has remained static for seven years, a report by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) said.

Its latest annual Water Matters survey found that nine out of 10 customers are satisfied with their water and sewerage services, but said it was “no surprise” that the sector was coming under increased scrutiny in light of negative perceptions about charges.

Those customers who think charges are unfair are more likely to have made contact with their water company in the past 12 months, and are also less likely to recommend their water company or believe the company cares, the survey found.

What’s clear is that every contact made is an opportunity for water companies to increase trust and change customer attitudes by providing a positive experience Mike Keil, head of policy and research at CC Water

Mike Keil, CCWater’s head of policy and research, said: “Customers’ perceptions of fairness and value for money have remained disappointingly static for seven years, and it’s no surprise that the water sector is now coming under increased scrutiny.

“Just this year, service interruptions caused by March’s ‘Beast from the East’ and the current spell of dry weather have led to frustration among customers.

“Unless water companies take action now, it’s unlikely that we will see a reversal of this trend anytime soon.”

Over the past seven years, customers’ views on the fairness of charges have improved for three companies – Welsh Water, South West Water and Wessex Water, according to the watchdog.

But it said the failure of the industry as a whole to address the long-term issue showed that “more work needs to be done”.

Mr Keil said: “While all companies now offer social tariffs to customers in financial difficulty, we think that there is an opportunity for companies to do a lot more in this area, for example by expanding these schemes and contributing more towards them.

“What’s clear is that every contact made is an opportunity for water companies to increase trust and change customer attitudes by providing a positive experience.”

Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts said: “Thanks to £150 billion of investment by water companies since the 1990s, customer satisfaction with water and sewerage services remains very high.

“However, we fully recognise that there is still more to do on other issues. Average bills are currently around £1 a day and have remained roughly the same for the last 20 years in real terms.

“While six out of 10 people see that as good value for money, we are determined to improve on that.”

Customers can compare how their water company is performing by visiting www.ccwater.org.uk or the Discover Water website www.discoverwater.co.uk.

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