Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has called on water companies to ensure that customers get a fair deal today.
In a letter that has gone to all of the major water companies, Owen Paterson stressed the tough times that households are facing and the crucial role that the industry can play to bring costs down.
As part of government’s plan to help hardworking people, water companies have been specifically asked by Ofwat to consider if they need to apply the full price increases next year allowed for in the 2009 Price Review.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:
We know that household budgets are under pressure, and keeping water bills affordable is a crucial way we can help hardworking people.
That is why we are pressing hard to make sure customers get a fair deal, by encouraging water companies to look closely at any price increases, introduce social tariffs for vulnerable customers and crackdown on bad debt.
Since 2009, average increases in water and sewerage bills have been in line with inflation, and are just over a pound a day, but this has still substantially outstripped increases in household income.
For this reason, action is required to bring costs down and help families in these tough times. Action to date includes:
- Ofwat estimate that the next Price Review could significantly reduce pressure on bills from 2015 by between £120 million to £750 million a year
- a crack down on bad debt with the industry’s worst performers challenged to match the performance of the best
- three major water companies introducing social tariffs to help vulnerable customers pay their bills and many more discussing this with their customers
- a new voluntary database for landlords to provide information about tenants to water companies – and government committing to challenge landlords to demonstrate that further regulation is not needed
- a commitment to improve governance standards across the sector, including increased independent and customer representation on boards
- new measures in the Water Bill to ensure that there is an independent redress body to handle complaints that cannot be swiftly resolved by the companies themselves