CustomerBirmingham, UK ---(METERING.COM)--- July 13, 2006 -  Customer complaints regarding water firms have risen by 11 percent in England and Wales in the last financial year. The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has said this was due to above inflation price rises and drought restrictions.

United Utilities, which serves the North West, and Severn Trent Water, saw the biggest increases in complaints. CCWater, which replaced consumer body Water Voice last October, received 1,138 complaints about United Utilities in the six months up to 31 March, a 41 percent rise over the same period last year, while Severn Trent, which serves more than 8 million customers across the UK, received 1,164 complaints, representing a 54 percent rise.

Gary Dixon, who is responsible for customer service at United Utilities, said the introduction of a new billing system had prompted the rise in complaints. He says this has been a major project involving the transfer of millions of customer records and training of over 1,000 staff members. “This system has now bedded-in and the number of complaints to United Utilities and those being investigated by CCWater, has fallen since March,” he said.

Dame Yve Buckland, chair of CCWater, expressed concern as what she called a “significant” rise in complaints. “From our research we know that consumer trust is getting stretched. They expect to see service improvements and reliable supply alongside returns to shareholders,” she said.

The majority of complaints were about unmetered bills, which saw a 66 percent rise from previous years, with complaints about metered bills rising by 40 percent. Customers were also concerned over delays in connections to the mains, with complaints rising by 35%.