Water company complaints increase by 29%

6th October 2023

Water watchdog CCW has said it has seen a 29% rise in complaints made to it about water companies in the first quarter of the current year with poorest performers failing to get to grips with high levels of customer complaints.

232,817 complaints were made to water companies in England and Wales by households in 2022/23 with billing and charges (47%), water services (30%), and wastewater services (22%) were the main causes of complaints.

Southern Water was the most complained-about company with Thames Water the only water and sewerage company to be rated as poor for complaint levels and complaint handling Between them, the companies provide water and wastewater services to more than 20 million people.

Overall, the report shows households made 232,817 complaints to water companies in England and Wales during 2022-23, with problems relating to billing and charges accounting for almost half (47%) of these disputes.

The number of customers who sought help from CCW in resolving their complaints remained relatively stable during the year (6,197 – up 1%). But the consumer watchdog has seen a 29% rise in complaints brought to it during the first quarter of 2023-24.

The industry’s overall performance was skewed by the large number of complaints made by households to the two poorest performers. Complaints received by Southern Water were almost three times higher than the overall average for water and sewerage companies – with Thames Water’s just over one and a half times higher.

Dr Mike Keil, Chief Executive at CCW, said “Trust in the water sector has never been more fragile and the task of rebuilding it is made all the more challenging when companies perform as poorly as Thames Water and Southern Water. We’re especially concerned that these two companies have not performed well across all the main causes for people to complain and that Thames, in particular, is compounding customers’ frustrations with delays and a failure to resolve many issues first time. Customers have a right to expect better from such an essential utility provider where switching supplier is not an option.”