Orange Complaint Button on Computer Keyboard. Internet Concept.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) says Southern Water has a lot more work to do to curb the number of complaints it receives from customers, despite taking an important step in the right direction.

Annual figures published by the water watchdog today (Wednesday) show Southern Water has responded positively to CCWater’s pressure to improve its performance by reducing written complaints by almost 45 per cent in 2016/17.

But CCWater will continue to press Southern Water to make further improvements after it was named the worst performing water company in England and Wales for the fifth successive year. Southern also reported a 54 per cent increase in ‘unwanted contacts’, where its customers had to pick up the phone to resolve an issue.1 The company has attributed this to a review of its internal recording processes.

The watchdog also wants to see a marked improvement from Thames Water. A number of major incidents during 2016/17, contributed to a 22.5 per cent rise in written complaints to the company, as well as a 2.5 per cent increase in unwanted contacts.

Affinity Water – one of the poor performers in 2015/16 – reduced written complaints by 21 per cent but reported a 4 per cent increase in unwanted contacts. As a result, CCWater will continue to monitor the company closely in the coming months.

Sir Tony Redmond, London and South East Chair for CCWater, said:

We are encouraged by Southern’s improvement but its performance remains poor in comparison to the rest of the industry. There is a lot more work to be done by the company. We’re aware Thames Water has taken steps to improve its customer service after a disappointing year and we’ll be watching closely to make sure these changes have a swift and positive impact.

There was better news for customers of South East Water which reported a 30 per cent reduction in written complaints and nearly 19 per cent fall in unwanted contacts. The company has earned praise from CCWater as it continues to transform itself into one of the industry’s better performers.

Customers who are unable to resolve their complaint with their water company can turn to CCWater for free help and advice. During 2016/17 the independent watchdog helped customers with more than 8,700 complaints about their water company and secured over £1.3 million in financial redress.

1 Unwanted contacts do not exclusively include complaints and can cover a wide range of telephone calls where customers have reported a service issue or had to chase their water company for action to be taken.


Download Complaints to Water Companies England and Wales April 2016 –March 2017 (pdf – 1 MB)