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 for England and Wales.
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.
What you can claim when your water supply has been cut off in England or Wales
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).
— Jamie W (@MrJamieW) October 6, 2014
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.
Complaining about water supply in Scotland
Complaining about water supply in Northern Ireland
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
Freezing 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.
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
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