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  • by Trevor Loveday

Consumer watchdog demands end to affordability-or-investment quandary

Consumer watchdog, Consumer Council for Water (CCW), plans to campaign to end water poverty in 2023-24 and has called for “a price review that doesn’t present a choice between affordable bills and investment.”

In its Forward Work Programme 2023-24, CCW said it would raise public awareness of support offered by water companies to 50% by summer 2024. And it asserted: “We will be requiring companies to take account of affordability in their business plans and, if they fail to, we will be writing to company boards.”

It outlined its forward programme under five categories with campaigns associated with four of them:

  • Affordability and vulnerability – End water poverty;

  • People and the environment – Drought;

  • A sector that works for people – Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS);

  • Business customers – Change in key areas following our review of the market; and

  • Price review.

For People and the environment the watchdog has pledged to work with companies to “improve transparency by ensuring they are publishing near real time data on storm overflows that is accessible, engaging and reliable.” It has called also for accelerated reduction in demand to be “created as a catalyst for better behavioural change messaging and incentivising demand management.”

In the event of a dry winter in 2023 CCW said it would mobilise an awareness-raising campaign in focused on helping people to reduce their water use.

Under its sector that works for people banner, CCW has proposed a customer-focused licence condition “that includes our key asks.” Its associated campaign will call for increased minimum GSS payments with consistent standards across England and Wales.

For business customers the watchdog’s demands include: a reduction in the complaints it receives from business customers by ten percentage points by March 2024 and a Market Performance Framework that delivers its objectives for reform.

On PR24 CCW’s objectives include;

  • all companies to set out clearly in their business plans the actions they will take to deliver comprehensive affordability and vulnerability support;

  • companies to demonstrate they have changed their plans in areas where research shows customers have found their proposals unacceptable; and

  • to influence Ofwat’s ongoing cost of capital assessment to ensure it reflects CCW’s assessment.


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