Research reveals people’s expectations for water company service standards

Most customers in England and Wales are unaware they could be entitled to a payment if their water company fails to meet certain service standards, according to new research.

The study conducted by the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) has revealed that awareness that water companies must comply with legal service standards, known as the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS), is low – even among customers who own water-critical businesses.

The research is the starting point of CCW’s work to help the water industry modernise the GSS, based on customers’ views. This is important work, as the current standards and payments have seen little change since they were first introduced more than 20 years ago.

The CCW will also bring the industry together to review the findings of its customer research and will launch a call for evidence that will ask water companies to submit their ideas on how the current standards could be improved. They will use this feedback and the research of customers’ views to put forward a set of proposed reforms for improving GSS.

Dr Mike Keil, Senior Director of Policy, Research and Campaigning at CCW, commented:

“We felt the current standards did not accurately reflect customers’ expectations and this research shows that customers feel this too. We want to work with the industry to ensure the standards are fit for purpose – this includes making sure payments reflect the impact of incidents, ensuring more tailored support for those in vulnerable circumstances, and that the standards cover the issues that matter to consumers, such as water quality.

“One of the key findings of our research showed that very few people are aware of current service standards – this needs to change. As part of a review of GSS, we want to see companies communicate better with customers about the minimum service they should expect and what they are entitled to should things go wrong. Increasing awareness of these has real potential to have a positive impact on the level of trust people have in their water company.”

Communication was highlighted in the research as an important factor for customers, not only with GSS but also when there are service issues. Customers want to be kept informed and have problems fixed quickly. These expectations are greater for water companies than other utility providers, as being without water is viewed as unacceptable for customers given the impact on people’s lives.

The call for evidence for companies to submit their feedback for changes to the Guaranteed Standards Scheme will be launched in mid-July and remain open until 15 September.

Read the full report here:




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