The Consumer Council for Water warned water companies to address growing customer concern about the fairness of bills, after its annual Water Matters survey revealed a gulf between high satisfaction with service and lower satisfaction with fairness of charges.
The watchdog found about 6 out of 10 households across England and Wales think what they pay their water company is fair, despite the vast majority (9 out of 10) being satisfied with the service they receive when they turn on the tap or flush the loo.
Welsh Water is a better position on this than English Water companies; the report showed customers in Wales are significantly more satisfied than households in England when it comes to most aspects of their water company, including service, value for money and fairness.
Welsh Water pointed to its higher ratings across a number of key measures, including:
overall satisfaction with experience (89% in Wales vs 85% in England);
higher levels of trust (8.18 rating in Wales vs 7.67 in England);
satisfaction with water services (94% in Wales vs 90% in England) and sewerage services (90% in Wales vs 85% in England);
agree charges are fair (70% in Wales vs 62% in England);
satisfaction with value-for-money for water (82% in Wales vs 71% in England) and wastewater (82% in Wales vs 74% in England);
Welsh Water has highest NPS of all companies – with 44 versus an overall score for England of 16; and
Chief executive, Chris Jones (pictured), said: “Our not-for-profit way of working enables us to focus all of our efforts on meeting the needs and expectations of the people we provide services to – so it is encouraging that customers in Wales feel more positive about the services they receive, and have more trust in their company with this vital public resource.”
CC Water advised the wider sector it has a “golden opportunity” to boost perceptions in the coming months as price and service levels for 2020-25 are agreed. “Those decisions and how companies communicate the changes with their customers could have a significant bearing on whether the industry is able to convince more households they are getting a fair deal.”
Dr Mike Keil, head of policy and research for CC Water said: “Customers’ perceptions over the fairness of their bills have languished behind satisfaction with service for almost a decade and companies cannot afford to ignore people’s concerns any longer. Fairness reflects people’s wider views and confidence in the industry and companies that are complacent run the risk of increasing discontent among their customers.”
The watchdog suggested providing customers with more information about the issues they care about, and focusing on affordability, as good places to start.