Your rights if your water supply has been interrupted

Water supply and your consumer rights

How to complain about your water

Water companies are regulated by Ofwat. Every company must follow the Guaranteed Standards Scheme which relates to compensation in the event of service failure.washing potatoes under running tap

However, the standards do not apply in certain situations, including extreme weather. But all is not lost!

Criticism of water companies

In many areas of the country thousands of people were left without water after burst and leaking pipes. The Financial Times reported that industry experts were critical of the water companies.

“For water mains to be affected, the frost needs to penetrate 600mm or 2ft under ground and we haven’t had that degree of penetration so I don’t believe them. Is it because they haven’t upgraded the pipes as they say they do?” asked Roland Gilmore of Thames Blue Green Economy, a lobby group concerned with improving London’s water-related environmental problems.”

“Rachel Fletcher, Ofwat’s new chief executive, said: “While the recent severe weather conditions have undoubtedly had an impact on pipes and infrastructure, water companies have been warned time and again that they need to be better at planning ahead to deal with these sorts these situations, including proactively communicating with customers when they anticipate issues.””

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London also condemned Thames Water saying that the weather should not have caused these problems. Given this criticism, it is worth complaining and trying to claim compensation if you were without water.

running water

What you can claim when your water supply has been cut off

Normally, water companies should provide a minimum of 48 hours’ notice 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 if you don’t receive the first £20 within 28 days. In cases where an emergency such as a burst pipe has cased interruption the company must restore the water within 12 hours although this rises to 48 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.

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).

South East Water complaints

I was on BBC Radio Kent this morning (06 March 2018) talking water, energy and rail rights in relation to the extreme weather. Douglas Whitfield the Head of Operations at South East Water was on answering questions. When asked if SE Water would be compensating customers he said that they would be writing to all to all customers. Pushed again he repeated himself and pushed again on whether this would definitely include compensation he laughed and said “Maybe”. So take from that what you will. Given the amount these companies pay their shareholders they can afford to compensate you!

How you should complain about your water supply

Follow the Top 20 Tips How to Complain to make your complaint effective. You can write to the CEO. S/he will not respond personally but the matter will be taken more seriously and escalated above the customer services. Contact details for CEOs can be found at ceoemail.com.

Taking your complaint further

The standards clearly state that the scheme does not affect any legal rights to compensation that customer may have.

If you are not satisfied with your water company’s response you can take the matter to the Consumer Council for Water and ultimately the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. In Scotland the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and in Northern Ireland the Consumer Council.

Related utilities and weather complaints 

Your rights with weather-related energy problems on electricity pylonFreezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know all you need to know about your rights with weather related issues and your energy supply.snow on train track Left out in the cold by a rail company - your rights

Left out in the cold by a rail company? Your rights all the information you need to complain about delays and cancellations regarding your rail travel.

 

See Everything You Need to Know About Your Water Supply for even more on your water supply

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! for lots of information, advice, consumer laws and rights, tips and template letters.

 

 

 

Everything you need to know about your water supply

Does your supply get interrupted?
Does your supply get interrupted?

Ofwat

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.

Ofwat guaranteed standards scheme and your rights

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.

Your rights if your water supply has been interrupted

If you are having difficulty paying your water bill see What to do if you can’t pay a water bill by Sara at DebtCamel for help and advice.

 

For more on your consumer rights and how to assert them effectively see The Tips and for even more advice, guidance information and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!