Standards of services

Water and wastewater customers are entitled to guaranteed minimum standards of service, as laid down by the Government. These rights are known as the guaranteed standards scheme (GSS). Where a retailer or wholesaler fails to meet any of these standards of service then it is required to make a specified payment to the affected customer. We monitor the scheme and recommend charges.

Customers’ rights

The scheme applies to all customers of water and sewerage companies, including those in debt.

The water and sewerage companies must inform billed customers of their rights under the scheme every year.

Details of payments your water company must make if it does not meet its service standards are summarised in the following table. There are occasional circumstances when these payments do not apply. These are set out in our information note on the guaranteed standards scheme. In particular, payments may not apply when severe or exceptional weather has prevented them from meeting their standards. You can find out more in our guidance to companies on weather-related exemptions.

The business retail market

On 1 April 2017 amendments to the GSS Regulations came into force. These take into account the opening of the retail market for water and wastewater services for businesses, charities and public sector organisations.

The main change to the GSS Regulations is that for business customers who can switch suppliers, the following will apply:

  • retailers will now be responsible for making GSS payments to their customers in all instances; and
  • the responsibility for funding payments to business customers will be shared between the retailer and the wholesaler, and will be made by whichever is at fault for the GSS Regulation failure.

The 2008 GSS Regulations are being retained for those companies operating wholly or mainly in Wales (Welsh Water and Dee Valley Water), and for customers who are ineligible to switch suppliers.

Summary of payment amounts that apply in England & Wales

These are the minimum payment amounts. Some companies may voluntarily increase these – ask your company for details.

GSS Regulation
GSS payment Late payment penalty
Residential customers  Business customers  Residential customers Business customers
 Appointments not made properly  £20  £20  £10  £10
 Appointments not kept  £20  £20  £10  £10
 Incidences of low water pressure  £25  £25  –  –
 Incorrect notice of planned interruptions to supply  £20  £50  £20  £50
 Supply not restored(*) – initial period  £20  £50  £20  £50
 Supply not restored(*) – each further 24 hours  £10  £25
 Written account queries and requests to change payment arrangements not actioned on time  £20  £20  £10  £10
 Written complaints not actioned on time  £20  £20  £10  £10
 Properties sewer flooded internally Payment equal to annual sewerage charges
(Minimum payment of £150. Maximum of £1000)
 £20  £50
 Properties materially affected sewer flooded externally Payment equal to 50% of annual sewerage charges (Minimum payment of £75. Maximum of £500)  £20  £50

(*) Supply not restored within time notified (planned work) or when supply is interrupted for an extended time under unplanned/emergency situations

Payment and claims

If you are entitled to a GSS payment and the company has not made the payment automatically, you can claim the payment within three months of the incident.

If, at the time of the incident, you owe money to the company, and have done so for more than six weeks, the company will normally credit your account rather than make payment by cheque

Legal rights

The scheme does not affect any other legal rights to compensation you may have.

Disputed claims

If your claim is disputed by your company then the Consumer Council for Water may be able to resolve your complaint quickly on an informal basis. If they are not successful then they will consider referring the complaint to us for formal resolution. Once we start a formal investigation of the dispute, both you and your company must follow our decision.

It is each water company’s responsibility to make sure it complies with the GSS regulations. We will in no circumstances be bound to interpret the GSS regulations in accordance with these summaries. When considering regulatory decisions, in particular in determining disputes, we will consider the original text of the GSS regulations as well as the facts as they arise.

Compensation in the event of drought

All companies are required under licence conditions to pay compensation to customers where essential household water supplies are interrupted as a result of restrictions authorised by emergency drought orders. This includes water supplies for purposes such as:

  • cooking
  • washing
  • drinking
  • flushing the toilet

It does not include uses such as watering the garden, car washing or filling a pool.

Although this measure is not part of the GSS, it does mean that customers have access to compensation if essential supplies are not maintained.

Companies must accept our decision in the event of any disputes about entitlement.

Companies should pay household customers £10 for each day (or part day) that the water supply is interrupted or cut off. The maximum compensation entitlement is equal to the company’s average household bill for the previous year.

Companies should pay business customers, in the same circumstances, £50 a day (or part day). The maximum amount payable is the water charge paid by the customer in the previous year. If, however, the customer has not paid a full year’s water charge, or a third party is responsible for the water charges, the maximum is set at £500.

There is no entitlement to a payment under Condition Q if the circumstances are so exceptional that, in our view, it would be unreasonable to expect the company to avoid the interruption.

Water companies’ legal obligations covering GSS

You can find a summary of your water companies’ legal obligations regarding GSS in our information note.