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Some water retailers risking customer backlash on complaints

Poor performing water retailers could face a backlash from their business customers if they fail to address the causes behind a high number of complaints during the first year of switching in England.

The warning comes from the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) as it reveals some of the best and worst performing water retailers for customer complaints since businesses in England were given the freedom to switch their supplier in April 2017.1

The Water Watchdog’s report shows non-household customers made 14,885 written complaints to their supplier during the first 12 months of the water market in 2017/18 – up about 26 per cent on the previous year. Customer complaints made to CCWater about retailers also more than tripled.

Both increases were driven by a small number of poor performing retailers who were responsible for a disproportionate share of the rise in complaints. Almost two-thirds of complaints made to CCWater related to bills, with many of these business customers disputing the amount of water they had been charged for using.

However most of the market’s retailers appear to have adapted well to competition and avoided many of the service problems encountered by the poorer performers.

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We had expected complaints to rise as the market finds its feet but it’s now time for poorer performing retailers – including Castle Water, Wave and Water Plus – to get their act together.”

“Retailers who routinely deliver a poor service could start to see a backlash from businesses as their awareness of the market and right to shop around for a more reliable supplier continues to rise.”


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