New figures from the Consumer Council for Water (CC Water) have shown that complaints have risen dramatically.
Water customers had to make over 40,000 more calls since the previous report, leading to a final figure of over 2 million complaints in the last 12 months.
The Watchdog has highlighted certain companies as being the worst offenders for phone complaints with Southern Water topping the list. Yorkshire Water, SES Water, Thames Water and Affinity Water closely followed at the bottom of the league table.
While phone in complaints were on the rise, written complaints were found to be reduced. The annual report showing that out of 21 companies 12 had had a fall in the number of complaints sent by letter with written complaints falling by a total of 11%.
Southern Water received the largest number of written complaints but, surprisingly, they were also found to have had the largest reductions in complains sent by mail, with 45% less than last year. Cambridge Water, South West Water, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and Thames water made up the rest of the bottom 5 in terms of written complaints.
“I am pleased we are the most improved company across the industry in terms of achieving the largest reduction in written complaints,” said Southern Water’s chief customer officer Simon Oates.
“Despite this 45% reduction we are still at the foot of the industry league tables, so we’ll continue to work closely with our colleagues at CCW to drive forward further improvements and move up the rankings.”
In response to the findings Southern Water have taken the steps to open a portal on their website where customers can manage accounts.
Despite Southern being the worst performer, it is Cambridge water who have caught the Watchdogs eye due to their 250% increase in written complaints and a 37% increase in phone complaints. CC Water have asked Cambridge water to come back to them by the end of October to show the watchdog what steps they are putting in place to prevent further surges in complaint numbers.
Thames Water and SES Water are also facing closer inspection from the statuary body as they have also received an increase in both written and phoned complaints.
Tony Smith, CC Water’s chief executive had this to say regarding the rise in complaints: “The service customers receive from their water company has generally improved over the past decade, but that progress appears to have stalled.
“Water companies received more than 2m contacts from customers last year to resolve issues which they should get right first time. We’ll be challenging all of the industry to deliver an even better service, but particularly the poorest performers,” he added.
Michael Roberts of Water UK painted a slightly more optimistic picture. Although admitting that the frequency with which consumers had had to contact their water provider had slightly increased in the last year, he noted this was nonetheless a considerable drop from the 6 million complaints in 2009/10.
Roberts said: “The many improvements made by water companies is making a difference, with written complaints falling below 100,000 for the first time and a significant fall in the number of issues having to be dealt with over the phone since 2010.
“But as an industry we want to keep getting better, and make sure the downward trend in complaints and the increase in customer satisfaction continues. That’s why companies are investing billions of pounds over the next few years and increasing their focus on customer service,” he added.