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Water companies under scrutiny as complaints rise

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Bristol Water, Surrey-based SES Water and Southern Water are facing greater scrutiny from the industry’s watchdog after high complaints from customers.

Nine out of 21 water companies in England and Wales reported an increase in complaints from customers in the annual complaints report by the Consumer Council for Water, notably during the ‘beast from the East’ when many customers were left without water. The report showed that many customers felt they had received poor communication and support.

The three groups must now update the watchdog quarterly, detailing how they will reduce complaints.

Tony Smith, chief executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “The frustration felt by thousands of customers after March’s cold weather disruption to supplies should have reminded the industry that it cannot afford to be complacent.”

The water industry said overall complaints fell 17% over the year, with some groups delivering a notably better performance.

Bristol Water, SES Water and Southern Water have 1.2m, 300,000 and 2m customers respectively. Southern Water has had persistent problems – it is the third successive year they have faced intervention by the industry watchdog, though it has seen some fall in complaints. Bristol Water admitted that it had been one of the most difficult years in the company’s history.

The industry said it is investing £50bn from 2020 to 2025 to improve services.

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