Water companies have made ‘no significant improvement’ over the past year, according to the latest overview of the market by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater).
The group’s Water Matters survey for 2018 warns that companies remain too complacent, particularly when it comes to boosting perceptions of value for money and fairness.
Despite its damning topline conclusion, the report shows that satisfaction remains high although it has dipped since last year. Of the 5,000 customers polled, 90 per cent said they were satisfied with their water services (92 per cent in 2017), while 85 per cent claimed to be satisfied with sewerage services (88 per cent the year before).
Despite this, only 63 per cent of customers perceived their charges as fair. This figure though is higher than the 61 per cent recorded in 2017.
The report also showed customers in Wales to be significantly more satisfied than households in England when it comes to most aspects of their water company, including service, value for money and fairness.
Looking at the picture over the longer term, the report shows that customers’ trust in water companies has increased significantly since 2011 (from 7.33 out of ten in 2011 to 7.70 in 2018).
Other statistics from the report include:
- 73 per cent of customers agreed that their charges were affordable this year, compared with 74 per cent in 2017
- 73 per cent were confident that their water supply would be available in the longer term without restriction, down from 77 per cent
- 69 per cent agreed their water company cared about the services it provides – the same as in 2017. This trend has been flat over eight years
- Of those who had made contact – for whatever reason – with their water company in the previous 12 months, 81 per cent were satisfied, which is an improving satisfaction trend over eight years
- 44 per cent were aware of the Priority Services register, compared with 43 per cent in 2017
- Awareness of the free meter scheme, in unmetered households, dropped to 67 per cent compared to 69 per cent in 2017) but the eight-year trend is one of increasing awareness. However, only 26 per cent (27 per cent in 2017) of these customers were aware that a meter could be fitted on a trial basis
- 41% gave their company scores of 9 or 10 out of 10, compared to 42 per cent the year before
Dr Mike Keil, head of policy and research for CCWater, said: ““Customers’ perceptions over the fairness of their bills have languished behind satisfaction with service for almost a decade and companies cannot afford to ignore people’s concerns any longer.
“Fairness reflects people’s wider views and confidence in the industry and companies that are complacent run the risk of increasing discontent among their customers.”
Welsh Water chief executive, Chris Jones, welcomed the high scores for Wales, adding: “Our not-for-profit way of working enables us to focus all of our efforts on meeting the needs and expectations of the people we provide services to – so it is encouraging that customers in Wales feel more positive about the services they receive, and have more trust in their company with this vital public resource.
“But we know we need to listen to our customers more than ever to build on these positive findings – and this report will provide a vital basis for us to work from.”