Resolving a complaint against a water company in England and Wales will be quicker and easier for customers under changes that have taken effect this month.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) will now manage and oversee each step – including mediation and final adjudication – after a customer has exhausted their water company’s two-stage complaints process.

Customers will no longer have to go to a separate adjudicator (WATRS) if a resolution cannot be found at an earlier stage. Mediation and final adjudication of a dispute will be managed by CCW, with independent support from the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman (DRO).

The changes will address customers’ frustrations with the existing process by making it simpler to follow and reducing the amount of time it takes to resolve a complaint. CCW will also be able to provide more support and advice at each stage.

 It will also enable CCW to make better use of complaints data to work with the industry and governments to identify and resolve common issues of concern to customers.

Helen Brown, Director of Consumer Relations at CCW, commented:

We are really pleased that we can now offer this new and improved service to consumers. Having an issue with your water company or service can be frustrating enough without having a lengthy and difficult process to navigate.

Making the process easier and quicker will bring benefits for our customers and it will also enhance the support we can offer to people at each stage of the process. It will strengthen CCW’s consumer advocacy role, especially for customers in vulnerable circumstances.

CCW has appointed Dispute Resolution Ombudsman (DRO) to act as the independent legal adjudicator. DRO is an independent, not-for-profit, and government-approved service that has provided a range of services to its registered businesses and their customers for more than 30 years, including Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). DRO helps to provide consumers with additional peace of mind and supports businesses and their customers in finding solutions when disputes occur, without the need for costly and lengthy litigation.

Kevin Grix, CEO and Chief Ombudsman, Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, commented:

We are excited to embark on our journey as the new provider for CCW, offering an independent service that not only offers consumers another layer of protection, but also resolves disputes among customers, businesses, and the industry. With our solid legal foundation and decades of experience, we are well placed to support the water industry in enhancing their services and raising industry standards.

Last year CCW supported water customers with more than 13,000 complaints and enquiries, securing nearly half a million pounds in financial redress for households and businesses.