Complaints increased at a faster rate in the second quarter of 2017/18

The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) received more than 550 complaints from businesses in the second quarter of the year, around three times as many as the same period in 2016.

Complaints to the watchdog increased at a faster rate during Q2 compared to the first quarter and CCWater said it will be putting “pressure on all retailers” to reverse the trend in the coming months.

It said retailers operating in the new water market are working closely with CCWater to “tackle the root causes” of a rise in complaints from businesses.

The water watchdog explained it had expected to see an increase in contact from businesses, while the industry adjusts to the new non-household retail market, which opened in April. However, it added it was concerned about complaints having increased at such speed in the second quarter.

Figures published today (26 October) show the watchdog received 559 complaints from 1 July to 30 September compared to 196 for the same period last year. It also saw enquiries increase from 104 in 2016 to 348 in 2017.

Around nine out of ten contacts CCWater received from non-household customers were from SMEs.

Billing and charges made up the majority of complaints for the quarter with 324. CCWater said more customers were likely to have received their first bill from a new retailer during the quarter.

The watchdog said it will be challenging retailers to make sure bills and charges make sense to customers.

There has also been a significant rise in complaints about administration, compared to the same quarter in 2016, with 124 customers unhappy about the communication with their retailer.

Other reasons for the complaints included: water (37); retail competition (35); metering (13); sewerage (9) and other (7).

While most categories saw an increase from 2016, the number of complaints about sewerage fell from the previous year when 23 complaints were made.

Evan Joanette, policy manager for markets and competition at CCWater, said: “Retailers have shown a willingness to work with us to try to ensure some of the initial teething problems are quickly rectified.

“Moving forward we want to see the market delivering a better service for every customer, including small and medium sized businesses. If retailers fail to live up to those expectations, we would encourage customers to look elsewhere.”

The complaints figures come on the same day as Market Operator Services Limited (MOSL) released its switching figures for the second quarter of 2017/18.

It showed just 25,010 supply points switched water retailer in the period, taking the total number of switches since April to 61,311. This represents only 2.3 per cent of the 2.7 million supply points in the market.