Your rights if your water supply has been interrupted

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
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
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
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

Taking it 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.

Other related posts
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.

Everything You Need to Know About 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.




Left out in the cold by a rail company? Your rights

Well the Winter of 2018 huh? Pretty cold and pretty snowy! Lots of trains delayed and some stuck in the snow for hours. In some cases it probably couldn’t be helped but even in these cases it doesn’t mean you won’t get redress. It is about knowing your rights. So what are they?

snow on train track Left out in the cold by a rail company - your rights

If your train is cancelled you are due a full refund. If you still wish to travel you should be able to get on the next train then claim as for a delayed journey. If you have a date and time restricted ticket you may not be able to get on a later train. You should check with the station staff before travelling who will be able to advise. If you don’t travel due to the cancellation you are entitled to a full refund.

If you don’t want to travel because of the delay then you should be able to get a full refund. Under the National Rail Conditions of Travel you are entitled to 50% refund for a delay of 60 minutes. It is the time of arrival not the time of departure that is considered. Most companies now operate “Delay Repay” providing compensation for these delays regardless of cause. For most of the companies operating this scheme you will get at least 50% refund if you arrive more than 15 minutes late. For others it will be 30 minutes late.

Not travelling out of choice
Could be that an event to which you were travelling was cancelled so you didn’t want to travel. Or any reason! So long as it wasn’t an Advance ticket you should be able to get a refund minus an admin fee. The maximum admin fee that the companies can charge is £10.

Season tickets
Different train companies operate different policies. You will need to check with the relevant company. You will need to submit a claim for each journey rather than a discount at renewal. You are entitled to compensation for a journey delayed 30 minutes or more.

Companies saying weather related you aren’t entitled?
If this does happen tell them they are wrong! In September 2013, The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that rail passengers are entitled to a partial refund of the price of their train ticket even in these circumstances.

Snowing on train

Consequential loss
Well here is interesting! The National Rail Conditions of Travel (NRCT) state that companies are not liable for consequential loss. (If you couldn’t make use of a hotel stay or theatre tickets for example.) However, they do state that companies will consider exceptional cases. But even more interesting, is that since October 1st 2016 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) kicked in for travel, including trains. Under this Act you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. When I asked a few companies about their interpretation of the Act in January 2017, 4 of them gave their views. It is certainly worth trying to claim using both the CRA and the exceptional circumstances of the NRCT. I hope that if a company refuse to pay out for consequential loss that someone soon will take the matter to the Small Claims Court under the CRA. Come back and tell me if you are going to be the one to do it!

How to claim
If you don’t use your ticket to make all or part of your journey take the unused ticket to any train company’s ticket office and receive an immediate refund.

You can usually apply online via the rail company’s website.

Alternatively you can send the claim to the train company. Before you do, take a photo of the tickets just in case they get “lost in the post”! If you are claiming for consequential loss follow these Tips for making you complaint effective.

Make sure you claim within 28 days of the date of travel.

Find your company on the National Rail Enquiries page which will take you to the relevant page.

Missed connection
If you have missed a connecting train due to the cancellation or delay, you can claim a refund for the unused part of the journey should you not go on a later train or use an alternative form of transport. Consequential losses for this as above.

Emergency timetables
Some services ran an emergency timetable. In these instances it is possible that this may affect what you can claim. If you bought your ticket before the new timetable was put in place and decide not to travel then you can claim a full refund as above. However, should you travel and be delayed then the level of compensation will be based on the new timetable.

Not satisfied with response?
Email addresses for CEOs of UK railway companies with links to Delay Repay where applicable.

If you think that the response is unsatisfactory read the NRCT and the train company’s Passenger Charter which will have the details of the procedure you should follow. If still not happy and your journey was outside of London contact Transport Focus. For London (including under and overground) contact London Travel Watch. If still not happy you can take the matter to the CEO of Transport Focus or London Travel Watch (contact details from and after that the Local Government Ombudsman. It is hoped that soon the Railway Ombudsman will start.

A note about Southeastern
On its website Southeastern has provided a statement regarding passengers caught up in the disruption due to the weather. It is doubling Delay Repay for delays between  Tuesday 27 February to Friday 2 March inclusive. This is for delays 30 minutes or more. It also states that it will be offering additional compensation for the poor experience so is certainly worth trying to claim for consequential loss as above.

Keeping up to date with delays and cancellations
The National Rail Service website will give you up to date information on delays and cancellations.

Other useful rail travel posts
Stronger consumer rights against rail companies delayed again This provides more information about
Taken for a ride. Passenger complaints are up (& how you can get redress) Transport Focus announced in february 2018 that their latest National Rail Passenger Survey showed that only a third were happy with their last journey. More Statistics in this post and ways to complain.
Are you on the right track with your Christmas train travel plans? Information regarding cancellations by rail companies forcing passengers to pay walk up fares as cheaper tickets for buying in advance were not released.
Rail Ombudsman is finally coming down the tracks – consultation closing soon information about the proposed Rail Ombudsman including decisions and consultation responses.

Other related posts
Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know all the information you need for complaining about aspects of service provided by energy companies.

20 Top Tips for complaining effectively. 
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 more information, tips, advice, guidance and template letters.






Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know

snow high up from ground to treets

Left out in the cold by your energy company? All you need to know about your rights
Well this is a Winter and a half isn’t it? Quite incredible. It is inevitable that many people will have had problems with their gas or electricity supply We just had a bit of emergency with the water tank too! So, in exceptional circumstances such as this weather, what are you rights?

I think one has to be aware that these are truly out-of-the-ordinary circumstances and to understand that energy companies are not going to be able to get to customers as quickly as they would normally. They have both the significant increase in call outs, but also it is as difficult for their repair people to get to you as anyone else driving. With all the accidents and deaths caused in this weather I do think we need to be aware of that. None of us would want someone to risk their life to fix our boiler, I’m sure.

However, companies should be doing all they can. They should have more staff in place during the Winter months and have emergency plans in place to deal with increased enquiries at times like this. You do still have rights and can claim for lack of gas or electricity supply and lack of service.

Your rights with weather-related energy problems on electricity pylon

Vulnerable Customers
Energy customers who are vulnerable (and usually you need to be on the company’s list as such) will take priority for any loss of supply or repair.

If you are struggling to get in contact with your provider, keep a note of all times you called, tried the website etc., as evidence to use in a complaint at a later date.

Cut in supply
In the case of a cut in your gas or electricity supply, it is your distributor, not the supplier, who is responsible. You can find out who your gas transporter is here and electricity supplier here. Complain to them if necessary.

In the event of an unplanned power cut you are entitled to set amounts of compensation. For electricity this varies depending upon the number of homes affected, how long you are without supply and how Ofgem categorises the storm.

In an unplanned power cut you are entitled to set amounts of compensation. For electricity this varies for the amount of homes affected, how long you are without supply and  how Ofgem categories the storm.

From the Ofgem website:
Service Guaranteed Standards payment
Supply restoration: severe weather
The time you are off supply before being able to claim varies according to severity of storm. This is because
the companies will have more work to do to fix faults.

Storm category 1: After 24 hours
Storm category 2: After 48 hours
£70 for domestic and non-domestic customers.

A further £70 will be paid for each additional period of 12 hours in which supply is not restored, up to a cap
of £700 in total.

This applies to both storm category 1 and storm category 2

More on  power cuts (e.g. multiple cuts) can be found on Ofgem Know Your Rights Power Cuts page.

For gas you will be paid £30 plus £30 for each 24-hour period without gas. See 1 little Known Fact You Need to Know When Your Gas is Cut Off!

If you are on the Priority Services Register or a cut was due to bad weather you SHOULD get the payment automatically. Keep an eye out though and claim if you don’t receive it.

You should be paid with 10 days of the end of the power supply cut if automatic and within 10 days from any claim. If not, make sure you get the extra £30 entitlement for that breach of the Standards.

Also useful to know… if you have more than 4 power cuts in one year you are entitled to £75. (The year runs from  01 April to 31 March).

Energy companies are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and so you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care.

Cold weather payment
This is different to the Winter fuel payment. If you receive certain benefits and the temperature was forecast to be or is zero degree celsius or below for seven consecutive days you will receive £25 for each 7 day period between 1 November and 31 March. You can check if you are eligible and whether you will receive the payment (you do not need to claim it will be automatic) on the Government Cold Weather Payments page. Details for how to claim if not received are also on the site.

Boiler and heater breakdowns and cover
You will need to check your policy. But in general if the company has been unable to undertake the repair you should be able to employ another tradesperson to do the work. British Gas for example has said that “some Homecare polices will cover reimbursement for work we are not able to do which is then done by a third party, if the work is covered by the policy. Customers should check their policy if they wish to claim for a reimbursement. They will need a VAT invoice from their tradesman in order to claim.”  When SE leaves your elderly aunt without adequate heating for 11 days…  tells the story of what I did to claim when they did that to my aunt!

Other help
See Ofgem Standards of Conduct and Quality Standards for what you should be able to expect from your supplier. If it fails to meet the level of service required it must make a compensation payment. However, note that they do not need to do this if severe weather makes it impossible to restore the supply. See above for this.

See All you need to know to make a complaint about energy for more information including how to complain when a provider leaves a vulnerable customer without supply, about bills and how best to prepare a case for the Energy Ombudsman. See Top 20 Tips How to Complain! should you need to start getting your case together!

Left out in the cold by a rail company? Your rights if you have been affected by train delays or cancellations.

Your rights if your water supply has been interrupted

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!







Government and regulators continue to fail on resolving consumer disputes

The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system for resolving consumer complaints is broken and in danger of collapse. This is one of the conclusions of a damning new report released today. The report reveals that Government bodies have not heeded the warnings of an earlier report and that regulators have been complicit in making the situation even worse.

Ombudsman Omnishambles The UK ADR landscape 20 months on...The report, “More Ombudsman Omnishambles – 20 months on“, written by consumer campaigners Helen Dewdney and Marcus Williamson, follows on from their June 2016 report that exposed serious failings in the UK ADR system.

The original report highlighted the failings of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Ombudsman Association (OA) in their approvals and oversight of organisations providing alternative dispute resolution for consumers and business.

In February 2018 the Government announced that it was seeking to reduce the number of ADR providers in property to one because of consumer confusion. Despite this, the CTSI continues to approve providers in all sectors, significantly complicating the situation for consumers. For example, South Yorkshire Trading Standards and Kent County Council have already been approved for ADR in retail sectors which are already well covered. In addition, the CTSI is failing to deal with one particular provider which was previously known as The Retail Ombudsman (Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited) and which continues to provide ADR services in a variety of sectors. (RetailADR, AviationADR, UtilitiesADR, CommsADR)

The report demonstrates how the CTSI and the CAA are not verifying information given by providers in their annual reports and in the media. In order for an ADR provider to be an Ombudsman, it must meet certain standards and be a member of the Ombudsman Association. The report highlights that the Ombudsman Association has higher standards for approving an ADR provider (see minutes in report). These include not accepting organisations which have poor governance and corporate control and which provide misleading information.

The authors of both reports, Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney, are appalled at what they have discovered during this research. Dewdney says “Consumers are confused by the whole ADR sector. Public money – and consumers’ time – is being wasted because of inadequate monitoring and the approval of organisations which shouldn’t be providing services to the public or which simply aren’t necessary.”

The new report makes a total of 13 recommendations. These include:

· ADR providers should all work towards the higher “Ombudsman” status.
· There should be no new entrants to an ADR sector which already has a
well-established and properly functioning scheme.
· Approval bodies should have access to case management systems to check figures
as part of annual reviews.
· Reviews and reports by ADR providers should all be verified by a chartered
· There should be a central portal which signposts consumers to the correct ADR
scheme, funded by the schemes, to reduce confusion for consumers.More Ombudsman Omnishambles crowds of people

About the authors
Helen Dewdney is “The Complaining Cow”, a consumer campaigner, author and broadcaster who blogs here She is the author of the consumer advice book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! 

Marcus Williamson is a journalist and campaigner with a background in the Information Technology sector. In 2010 he established the website which now helps more than 10,000 people every day to resolve consumer issues by escalating them to the individuals who can make a difference, the CEOs and MDs of companies and other organisations.

5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should)

The twitter symbol How not to complain on TwitterI hear all the time from people that they have successfully complained because they have used social media. Occasionally if used in the right way, your complaint is simple, the trader has a good social media team and the wind is in the right direction this may be the case. Used in the right way it can be a good tool to name and shame and speed things up but that’s the limit as in the end you will still need to provide all the details off the public forum which is as good as sending an email in the first place. So what are the no nos?

1) A rant is not an effective complaint. Don’t get me wrong, I can rant for England and if ever there was an Olympics for ranting I’d be there. I will name and shame where it’s genuine too, it’s good for a laugh if nothing else. But it isn’t a complaint. It isn’t going to get you redress. Sometimes the company will respond sometimes they won’t. If you carry on ranting it’s the same as shouting, it’s not going to get you anywhere. It’s pointless and frankly very few people, if anyone is taking any notice of your rants. Why? Because social media is full of them and it’s boring. Remember I rant for England, but you’ll notice my rants are after I’ve effectively got my redress or just a rant for rant’s sake because I want to get it out of my head and I feel better then! So if you want to rant and it makes you feel better, do it, don’t expect anything significant from it though ‘cos no one cares. Think – how many times have you ever really joined in or contributed to someone else’s rant?

2) Personal information. I was in a meeting the other week with some people from a few financial institutions and other consumer organisations looking at complaints handling (trust me 3 hours we only scraped the surface!) but I was asked by a senior executive of a very large financial institution what I thought about complaining on social media. I said it drove me nuts. It isn’t the place to effectively sort out complicated issues and it certainly isn’t the place to be trying to resolve financial products. He agreed saying that they have a problem with people giving out personal details. They are far less worried about you saying “oi @xyzbank your service stinks” than you being very polite and then giving your age, your address and your policy numbers openly! You are opening yourself up to fraud on your account to say nothing of identity theft.

3) Hashtags. Really? Must you? Inventing your own? Unless you have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers who are all going to rt you why are you bothering? Who is going to look? Who is going to care? Perhaps find and use a hashtag so your tweets come up as one of many,  but think about it, how often do you look up a hashtag that you don’t know exactly what it is for and join in?!

4) Keeping on. Now, I know I say if you aren’t happy go back until you are, but that’s when you have written your email outlining exactly what you want. I can keep going for as long as it takes going through customer services, the CEO, ombudsmen, the court, whatever, but not on Twitter or Facebook! I have been known to have a conversation or two with Virgin Media on Twitter. But that’s because I simply had a query that I wanted to do online and they were thoroughly obtuse. Only answering within certain times of the day and stuff! So I ended up having a conversation complaining about their stupid systems and their responses which had nothing to do with the initial enquiry anyway! (Now, see? I could rant forever and a day about the telecoms sector! But if you could too but actually want to get anything resolved see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers) So where was I? Ah yes probably proving my point about not ranting in the last few sentences. If the company has not responded to two of your tweets or you haven’t been asked to send details about the complaint via their processes/email/private message then stop. Either you haven’t made yourself clear or they are useless at dealing with complaints on social media. Whatever the reason you are now wasting your time. No one is listening and you are being ineffective. Stop.

5) Copying in consumer people and organisations. I’m afraid I am unable to pick up people’s tweets and do their complaints for them. How can I possibly without all the information? And see Contact for more on what I can and can’t do). Imagine if I picked up or commented on everyone who follows me tweeted their complaints! I’d do nothing else! So how can the big guys, Watchdog, Rip Off, Dom Littlewood, MSE all do it? They can’t and won’t it just isn’t possible. Nor is it fair to pick up one tweet and not another, your complaint is not unique I promise you! (Have the manners to tweet me personally and I’ll direct you to the relevant page on my blog though!) If I can’t do it with only about 10k followers (plus the people who don’t even follow me, yet expect me to do something!) how on earth could the big organisations/media do it? It will not make the company any more likely to deal with your complaint because they know that anyone you have copied in will not get involved. Don’t waste the characters!

Good examples of how to use Twitter to complain.

1) Quick stuff. This is where the company has your bank details and can refund you. E.g. @tesco here is a pic of the rotten tomatoes that came in my delivery please refund. Appropriate response? “Sorry to hear that, please dm us your order number email and mailing adds., will reimburse.”

Complaining using Twitter various pics of supermarket goods with tweets about cracked eggs, rotten grapes and tomatoes

2) Where you have not had a reply to a written complaint e.g. “@virginmedia wrote to you on (date) not had reply please investigate”. Appropriate but unlikely response “Sorry to hear that please dm your name, add, and account number and we will look into this.” Then follow up in the dm with the required details and give deadline for wanting response.

3) When you don’t know where to send your complaint e.g. “@anytelecomco I have a complaint I want to email you but there is no email address please provide”. Appropriate response (from most companies but few if any telecoms)  “here it is …” you have the choice of carrying on arguing pointlessly, or to use and write to the CEO and add to your complaint that if their site provided an email address instead of whatever way they have tried to make you contact them it would be a lot better!

4) Part query, part complaint e.g.”@traincompany 5.40 to London delayed no information being given at all please advise”. Appropriate response (most cases) “due to xxx next train will be at yyyyy” or similar.

5) Query turning into complaint about fob off! E.g. “@retailer my order hasn’t been delivered”. Appropriate response “Please dm us your order number, name and address and we will investigate for you.” If fobbed off say “@retailer no, under Consumer Rights Act 2015 my contract is with you. Pls follow so can send you details for you to investigate”. (For more on your rights regarding deliveries see Your Rights, Mail Order, Online and Deliveries.

If you don’t get the appropriate responses do not waste your time continuing with social media. You are not succeeding.

See Top 20 Tips How to Complain! for complaining effectively.

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


For effective complaining information, guidance consumer laws, rights and template letters to ensure you get the redress to which you are entitled, GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!