The Consumer Council for Water is concerned the four companies singled out for extra scrutiny following the Beast from the East outages earlier this year are still “skating on thin ice” in terms of meeting the needs of all consumers during any major disruption to water supplies.
The watchdog said the companies’ (Thames Water, Severn Trent, South East Water and Southern Water) plans, submitted in September, show they have started to take steps to address their shortcomings, but that “CCWater is not convinced that some of the plans go far enough in improving each company’s approach to communicating with their consumers during disruption or ensuring additional support – such as emergency bottled water – reaches everyone who needs it. It also wants to see some of the planned measures put in place quicker.”
CC Water chief executive, Tony Smith (pictured), warned: “These water companies cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes which made life more difficult for consumers than it needed to be.”
He added that CCWater has welcomed a series of recommendations tabled by Ofwat to bolster the amount of compensation automatically paid to customers affected by supply disruption. But pointed out: “The most important thing is making sure all consumers – including those in vulnerable circumstances – get the support they need during any supply disruption. That includes good communication and extra help accessing emergency water where it’s needed. Ultimately companies will be judged on how well they handle the next major incident – if they come up short again we will expect the regulator to hit them hard.”
Ofwat last week published letters to Thames, Severn Trent, South East and Southern responding to their September plans.