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.’
Ocado delivers a rise in sales and revenue
OCADO returned to double-digit growth in the third quarter. The online supermarket saw weekly orders rise by 12.1 per cent after adding extra delivery slots, while revenue increased by 11.4 per cent. The results are the first for Ocado Retail, created as part of the £750million joint venture that will see it sell Marks & Spencer products from next September. The figures exclude wholesale activities such as deliveries for Morrisons. Ocado Retail boss Melanie Smith said the results showed ‘resilience’ after the fire at the company’s Hampshire warehouse in July.
■ ONE in 16 teens has gone totally cashless, only ever using electronic payments, a poll shows. Four out of ten who do sometimes use coins and notes would prefer not to, financial services provider OneFamily found.
■ FIRST-TIME buyer mortgages rose 5.8 per cent year-on-year in July, with 32,640 borrowers getting on the ladder. Mortgages for existing owners moving home were up 1.4 per cent, UK Finance said.
■ FOSTER’S was cleared of gender stereotyping over a radio ad in which agony uncles Brad and Dan told a man to say he was doing up his flat to put his girlfriend off moving in. It was clearly meant as a parody, a watchdog found.
■ ALMOST eight in ten people have splashed out on a birthday or anniversary gift — for themselves. Four in ten spent at least £100, according to TK Maxx. Two-thirds do it to cheer themselves up.
■ VEGAN meals are the quickest-growing fast food orders, with a 338 per cent rise in the last year, said delivery giant Just Eat. Desserts increased by 239 per cent and Pakistani food by 73 per cent.