The business market’s largest retailer, Water Plus, together with two smaller but growing entrants, Clear Business Water and Everflow, were called out for particular poor performance by the Consumer Council for Water when it published its second annual business customer complaints report last week.
The report, covering the market’s second year, detailed the number of complaints made by businesses direct to retailers, as well as complaints made to CC Water. The overall picture was negative: written complaints to water retailers rose for the second successive year to stand 52% higher than before market opened in England. Inaccurate bills and disputes over charges also sparked a 43% increase in complaints to CC Water.
The watchdog said Water Plus was the worst performing company with the complaints it received up by more than 70% and with 21 CC Water investigations – seven more than any other company.
Chief executive, Andy Hughes, said Water Plus had invested significantly in 2018 in systems, processes and people, and had seen substantial progress as a result of this, including reducing complaint levels. “These figures are historic and the first quarter of this financial year has seen a drop of around 40% for complaints, which shows the work we’re doing is continuing to make a difference for our customers.”
He added: “As we’ve worked through and cleansed some historic account activities in the last year, we unfortunately expected – and planned for – complaints to increase in the short-term and then reduce and we’ve also been working closely with the Consumer Council for Water, providing them with regular updates on the significant progress we’ve made.”
Meanwhile CC Water said Clear Business Water was the worst performer for complaints made to the watchdog, while Everflow was criticised in the report for its slow response to customers.
There was better news for customers of Business Stream, Affinity for Business, Water2Business and the companies in Wales – Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and Hafren Dyfrdwy – who were among the best performers.
The watchdog’s new chair, Robert Light (pictured), mooted regulatory intervention may be necessary. He said: “Poor performing retailers and water companies have had long enough to iron out these problems and the excuses won’t wash with us or customers. We want to see the regulator take action where companies are not fulfilling their obligations.”