Close-up view of car speedometer
  • Consumer watchdog CCW has led calls for water industry to speed up response to complaints
  • Ten water companies pledge to improve on existing industry standard of ten working days
  • Majority to reduce target to five working days from April as CCW and regulator Ofwat press for wider improvements on complaint handling
  • Northumbrian Water (two days) and Yorkshire Water (seven days) are ahead of the field having already introduced targets that beat the existing industry standard

Water customers can expect a faster response to their complaints in the future after ten water companies answered the consumer watchdog’s call to show more ambition.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) has praised the pledges made by a group of companies across England and Wales after it challenged the whole industry to improve on the existing standard commitment of ten working days.

Most of the companies have cut their target to five working days with the majority aiming to introduce their new standard from April 2021.

Northumbrian Water is ahead of the field having already introduced an even more ambitious target of two working days.

Emma Clancy, Chief Executive of CCW, said:

We believe it’s possible to handle complaints quickly and effectively without compromising quality and we’re delighted many water companies are showing greater ambition. Water companies should see every contact as an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with their customers and ensure they receive a better service and the support they need in the future.

Portsmouth Water and Wessex Water rolled out a target of five working days this month, while other companies set to cut their complaint response times include South West/Bournemouth Water, Affinity Water, Anglian Water, Hafren Dyfrdwy, United Utilities, Severn Trent, South Staffs and Cambridge Water and Bristol Water. Yorkshire Water is already working to a target of seven working days for all its complaints.

CCW will support companies’ efforts to improve complaint handling speed and quality through sharing best practice and providing insights from the thousands of disputes it helps consumers resolve every year.

The consumer group wants to see the whole industry commit to quicker response times and better outcomes for households who encounter problems with the service they receive.

Speeding up response times was one of a series of recommendations tabled in a joint report published by CCW and industry regulator Ofwat in November 2020. The report – which examined customers’ satisfaction with complaint handing – also challenged the industry to make more effective use of data, share best practice and develop a better understanding of what vulnerable customers’ need.

Water companies have until the end of March 2021 to produce action plans setting out how they will address each of the recommendations in the report.