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Four water firms told to stop torrent of complaints

FOUR water companies have been told to take urgent action to halt a sharp rise in complaints over service and billing.

Thames Water, Northumbrian Water, Essex and Suffolk Water and Hafren Dyfrdwy must improve their performance as soon as possible, the industry watchdog said.

Across all water firms, there was a 28 per cent rise in complaints about supply and pressure last year. And almost half of more than 2million grievances lodged were about billing or charges.

The Consumer Council for Water watchdog said: ‘Far too many customers are having to waste their time and suffer the frustration of disputing unclear or inaccurate bills.’

Thames, England’s largest supplier, saw a 24 per cent rise in written complaints, while the number of people reporting issues by phone rose by ten per cent.

Problems with the rollout of a new billing system were the main cause of a spike in complaints to Northumbrian and Essex and Suffolk, which have the same parent company.

Customers ringing up about the glitches faced long waits, with some calls being abandoned. That prompted written complaints to Essex and Suffolk to more than double while Northumbrian’s increased by 64 per cent.

The number of written complaints to Hafren Dyfrdwy rose by 154 per cent after its takeover by Severn Trent Water, largely due to billing problems.

All four suppliers pulled up by the watchdog have been asked to send it quarterly reports about what action they have taken and what more they plan to do to cut complaints.

Industry body Water UK pointed out that total complaints fell by about 60,000 compared with 2017. A spokesman said: ‘Services have improved dramatically in the last 30 years thanks to nearly £160billion of investment.’

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