Pregnant woman with her husband at home looking at bills

Throughout 2023-24, CCW will be focussing on a new campaign to secure improved service standards, fit for a modern water industry. As part of this work, we wanted to understand customers’ views on the current statutory compensation scheme (known as the Guaranteed Standards Scheme GSS). The GSS is a legal set of standards that all water companies must comply with, failure to meet any of these standards, could result in customers’ being entitled to a payment.

Set up in 2001, GSS has seen little change over the last twenty years; either to the payments to customers or the standards themselves. Given the changes that have taken place over the last two decades, within the water industry, the wider economy, and in consumers’ expectations, we have concerns that GSS no longer adequately supports customers or reflects the impact incidents have on those who experience poor service.

Through this research, we have gained the insights of customers about what they expect to see as part of a modern standards scheme to ensure we target where changes need to be made. The testing included proposed new service failure payment levels, to see if they appeared reasonable to people, and whether they met their expectations.

A common theme of the research findings was that awareness of the GSS is very low among all consumers, even those that owned water-critical businesses. This led to cynicism, with people questioning why they were not aware of the service standard, or that they were entitled to payments for service failures. At a time when trust in water companies is falling, more could – and should – be done to inform people about what they can expect from their water company and what they are entitled to when things go wrong. Many customers who took part in this research assumed, incorrectly, that they have no recourse to compensation: their perceptions of their water companies might improve if they knew more about the scheme.

Overall, our research reinforces the need for a new and improved GSS to meet customers’ expectations, with standards and compensation levels driven by what people think is both relevant and fair. We will be working with Ofwat and water companies to develop a GSS that is truly fit for today and the future and reflects fair payments when companies fail to provide a good service to their customers.

The key findings include

  • People have very low awareness of water company service standards, known as the Guaranteed Standards Scheme.
  • People want to see any increases in payments for service failure ‘future-proofed’, for example by automatically linking them to inflation.
  • People believe there should be more individualised support for people in vulnerable circumstances.
  • Customers want to see additional standards which focus on water quality and wider environmental standards.
  • CCW is using the findings to help the water industry review current standards and payments to make them fit for the 21st Century.
Download Read the full GSS report (pdf – 2 MB)