Consumer watchdog says Castle Water “largely responsible” for summer complaints spike

CCW has laid the blame for a rise in complaints from business customers over the summer largely at the door of Castle Water.

Publishing its latest quarterly figures, the customer watchdog said: “Complaints made by Castle Water customers to CCW tripled between July and September compared to the previous three months with the retailer largely responsible for the rise in overall disputes during the second quarter of the year.”

CCW received a total of 1,252 business customer complaints during the first six months of 2020-21 (April - September) – with more than 80% relating to billing problems. Despite the Q2 rises on Q1, the 2020-21 half year figures improved compared with Q1&2 2019-20 (see chart).

The watchdog pointed out that the reopening of some commercial premises over this summer coincided with a 42% rise in complaints to CCW between July and September after a relatively quiet first quarter. “Many of these were from customers who returned to discover estimated water bills that did not reflect their usage.” Moreover it said July and August also saw a sharp increase in disputes over the recovery of water debt – “particularly from customers of Castle Water” – at a time when retailers were being urged by CCW and regulators to support businesses on the road to recovery.

CCW praised Water2Business for retaining its position as one of the market’s best performers, and First Business Water which did not generate a single complaint to CCW this summer.

CCW has pressed for a Customer Protection Code of Practice change to better protect closed businesses from debt recovery activity, and said it had been active with Ofwat over the summer in ensuring Covid-impacted customers get support.