Complaints from business customers about their water supplier have fallen but the gap between the best and worst performers continues to widen.
It is positive that fewer business customers are having to escalate their complaints to CCW. However, the independent voice for water consumers has warned that too many businesses are still having to complain about the retail service they receive.
CCW has called on poorer performing water retailers to learn from the complaint handling of those receiving the lowest written complaints and match the performance of Hafren Dyfrdwy, First Business Water, Water2Business and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water.
Annual figures released by CCW show that written complaints from business customers to their water retailer fell by 2% in 2021/22. There was also strong evidence of more businesses receiving a swifter resolution to their problem with 19% fewer complaints having to be escalated to CCW.
Emma Clancy, Chief Executive of CCW, said: “The water market in England promised to deliver higher standards of service but too many business customers are still experiencing problems. Businesses deserve a good service from their water retailer and while it is encouraging to see a further improvement in this area, written complaints are only one indicator of a customer’s overall experience of their retailer and the market.
“With satisfaction, and willingness to engage, remaining low for most customers in England, it is clear that the fundamental problems in the market are far from resolved.”
CCW’s work with retailers to tackle the biggest cause of complaints – billing and charges – has started to bear fruit with the overall number falling by a quarter during the year.
But there remain stark differences in the performance of individual retailers with Water Plus, SES Business Water, Clear Business Water and Castle Water generating the most concerns among their customers. In contrast, there are many smaller retailers which haven’t generated any complaints at all.
Although there are encouraging signs – particularly the improvements to complaint handling – performance across the industry still has some way to go to reach the levels seen prior to the introduction of the retail market in 2017. Complaints to retailers remain 22% above those direct complaints about retail service prior to the market opening. Complaints from customers about their retailer to CCW also remain almost three times greater than the pre-market level of 2016/17.
In Wales, where the option of switching only applies to businesses using very large volumes of water, both companies – Hafren Dyfrdwy and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water – continue to deliver better complaint performance to business customers than the majority of the retail market in England.
CCW continues to work closely with retailers and Ofwat to drive improvement across the market. The consumer body is set to publish a report assessing how the first five years of the market have delivered for business customers in March 2023.