Research commissioned by Ofwat has indicated that consumers are more than three times as likely to pay bills by credit card than ask for help.

The research also shows that a third of customers are struggling to pay household bills and this proportion rises to more than half of customers (51%) when looking at those with children aged 11 or under. Four in ten customers (41%) are worried about money over the next six months.

In that context, it is concerning that only 15% of water customers were aware of water companies providing financial support during the pandemic. And just 3% of bill payers reported they had received any form of financial support for water during the pandemic.

This new research highlights the increased need for water companies to be more proactive in increasing awareness of the financial support available to customers so those most in need, can get a helping hand.

The research s part of #ListenCareShare, a piece of work to understand customers’ experiences during the pandemic, suggests that many customers who are struggling financially are doing so for the first time and so may not know how to access support or be known to companies as customers in need of help.

David Black, Interim Chief Executive at Ofwat said “Behind the statistics lie the challenging reality being faced by so many customers today. The stories we have heard through #ListenCareShare have reminded us that the financial impact of this pandemic continues to bite and we are beginning to gain a clearer picture on what this means and how this feels for customers.

“Customers are making difficult decisions, with some turning to credit cards to cover their bills. Water companies need to be active in seeking out and providing help to those who need it the most, especially during these unprecedented times.”