Water firm complaints rise by 20%

By Annie DavidsonCOMPLAINTS about water companies serving East Anglia have increased by 20% over the past year, it has been revealed.Watervoice Eastern, which represents customers across the region, has produced its annual report for 2003-04 and said the number of complaints had risen from 962 to 1,152.

By Annie Davidson

COMPLAINTS about water companies serving East Anglia have increased by 20% over the past year, it has been revealed.

Watervoice Eastern, which represents customers across the region, has produced its annual report for 2003-04 and said the number of complaints had risen from 962 to 1,152.

They cover a wide range of issues, including disputed metre readings, delays in installing meters and leakage allowances.


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A price review that could see significant price increases by 2009-10 has also been highlighted by Watervoice Eastern.

Anglian Water is proposing an average price increase of 28% for water and a further 8% for sewerage, Essex and Suffolk Water is proposing a 25% hike for water and Tendring Hundred Water is suggesting a rise of just 3% for water.

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Watervoice Eastern committee chairman, Catherine Harvey, said: “Water and sewerage bills are already rising and final business plans suggest that they will rise much faster over the next five years.

“Our priorities for the months ahead are to ensure that customers are fully informed as to the reason for the proposed increases and to urge the companies that gradual increases over the period rather than a large increase in the first year will be more manageable for customers.”

A spokesman for Essex and Suffolk Water said: “The increase in bills in April 2004 was required when the company faced unexpected additional costs caused by increased customer debt, water quality monitoring and other new obligations requiring capital expenditure to maintain assets.

“It is inevitable that there will be some customers who are unhappy with the price increases, but Essex and Suffolk Water customers are on average still paying £5 less than they did in 2000.”

He added: “The company has submitted its final business plan for the period 2005-2010 to Ofwat, this is the latest stage of the regulator's five-year review of prices.

“The proposed price increases are necessary to fund the proper maintenance of existing assets - reservoirs, treatment works, pipes and other facilities - and to provide new ones in line with Government requirements.”

Andrew Mackintosh, head of communications for Anglian Water, said: “We are disappointed by the increase in complaints as our service performance has actually improved this year.

“However, we do use feedback from customers and encourage customers to feedback to us which is partly reflected in these figures.”

Andrew Smith, general manager at Tendring Hundred Water, said its complaints had fallen by 30% during the past year.

“These comments don't fit with us and we don't agree with them. These are very generic figures,” he added.

“Complaints across these companies have gone up by 20%, that is a fact, because those are figures given to Ofwat by the companies.

“Our complaints went down by 30% during the last year, which could be attributed to all sorts of things. We have only got 70,000 links, compared to a company like Anglian Water which has about a million.”

A spokesman for industry regulator Ofwat said: “Anglian Water is one of the better performers relative to other sewage companies in the overall level of service it provides its customers.

“There has been an increase in the number of complaints and it is important the company tackles the underlying problems.”

annie.davidson@eadt.co.uk

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