Water companies are regulated by Ofwat. Each water company must follow the guaranteed standards scheme which is a statutory scheme that provides compensation in the event of service failure and have a complaint procedure in place. In addition each company must have various codes of practice including its customer code of practice and other codes covering domestic leakage, debt recovery and pipe laying. They also have to have a published charges scheme – this outlines the charges the company has to apply for different groups of customer. All companies are required to have complaints procedures and all the above must be covered by Ofwat.
Ofwat regulates the water and sewerage sectors to drive improvements in service. It monitors each company’s performance, comparing service across the industry and supporting best practice. It will also take action against any company that fails to provide the level of service customers expect.
The guaranteed standards scheme includes standards about how a water company must:
- make and keep appointments
- maintain the right water pressure
- deal with interruptions to the supply
- answer account queries and complaints.
The standards don’t apply in certain situations – e.g., if the problem is caused by severe weather conditions, industrial action or someone else’s actions. If a company doesn’t agree to the request to pay for bills in a different way, it must tell the consumer this within five working days or pay compensation of £20. The water company must pay compensation if essential household water supplies are interrupted because of an emergency drought order. This is part of their licence conditions.
Water companies should usually supply water at a minimum of seven metres static head, unless low pressure is due to drought or essential maintenance work. If the pressure falls below this for an hour or more on at least two occasions in a 28 day period, you’re entitled to a payment or credit of £25. Only one payment of £25 can be made in any one financial year. If the fall in pressure is due to industrial action or someone other than the water company then no payment will be made.
Water companies should provide a minimum of 48 hours of any interruption to supply and provide details of when it will be restored. If it does not or does not restore supply by the specified time then you are usually entitled to £20 compensation and a further £20 compensation if you don’t receive the first £20 within 20 days. In cases where an emergency such as a burst pipe has caused interruption the company must restore the water within 12 hours although this rises to 48 hours if it is a strategic main pipe. The company must tell consumers as soon as possible regarding where an alternative water supply can be obtained, when it plans to restore the supply and a telephone number for more information.
Again, if the supply is not restored by the time the company says it will be compensation is due. £20 for the first 24 hours and £10 for each further 24 hour period the supply remains unrestored.
If the interruption lasts more than 12 hours, the company should provide an alternative supply, for example, bottled water or tankers in the street known as bowsers.
For Scotland write to the Scottish Water and Sewerage Customers’ Council, Northern Ireland, the Water Services Office of the Department of the Environment and for England and Wales, Ofwat where guidelines are similar.