Complaints and disputes we can help with

We are a statutory body and our powers are set out in legislation. The Water Industry Act 1991 (WIA91) is the main source of our powers to determine disputes. We also have concurrent powers with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA):

  • under the Competition Act 1998 (CA98) to deal with competition concerns that arise within the water and sewerage sectors
  • under the WIA91 and the Enterprise Act 2002 to initiate a market investigation in relation to commercial activities within the water and sewerage sectors if we consider those activities may prevent, restrict or distort competition

Complaints under the CA98

We have the power to investigate matters where anti-competitive behaviour has been alleged within the water and sewerage sectors. Any competition related concerns you have can be raised either directly with Ofwat or with the CMA with whom we share these competition powers. If you refer your case to the CMA, they will coordinate with us as to who is best placed to lead on the issue.

Complaints under the WIA91

Customers that are dissatisfied with their water or sewerage company should contact their water company in the first instance to see if the issue can be resolved directly with the water company. We will not normally consider complaints under the WIA91 where the water company has not had an opportunity to look into the matter and put things right.

In the event that the matter is still not resolved, the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) may be able to help solve the issue. Except for non-household related complaints, we expect customers to have referred their matter to CCWater prior to any complaints which CCWater could not resolve being considered by us.

The most common disputes we deal with include the following.

Guaranteed standards scheme

  • A dispute over a customer’s right to a payment or credit if a company does not meet required standards as set out in the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS) (sections 38 & 95 WIA91 and the GSS Regulations).

Water connections

  • A dispute in respect of the costs and conditions set by a company for making connections to water mains (sections 45 and 47 WIA91).
  • A dispute over the terms and conditions set by a company for providing a non-domestic supply of water (section 56 WIA91).
  • A dispute between two water companies over a bulk supply of water (sections 40 – 40A WIA91).
  • A dispute over the charges and deposit requirements for providing a water main (requisition) (section 42 WIA91).
  • A dispute over the terms and conditions set by a company for the adoption of self-laid infrastructure (sections 51A to 51C WIA91).
  • A dispute over the charges or disconnection costs that must be paid to a company before a non-household customer’s supply is reconnected (section 47(2)(b) WIA91).

Sewerage connections

  • Appeals on the transfer of private sewers and pumping stations (see our guidance on transfer of private sewers appeals) (section 105B WIA91).
  • A dispute over a refusal to allow private sewers and drains to be connected to public sewers, or a dispute over an unreasonable requirement to inspect the drain or sewer before allowing a connection (sections 102 & 105 WIA91).
  • A dispute over the reasonableness of a company’s refusal or the reasonableness of its requirements for a connection (section 106 WIA91).
  • A dispute over the charges and deposit requirements for providing a sewer (requisition) (sections 98 & 99 WIA91).
  • A dispute over a proposal or refusal to adopt sewers or sewage disposal works, or a dispute about the conditions in an adoption agreement (section 104 WIA91).
  • Disputes between sewerage services companies about the terms of a bulk discharge agreement (section 110A WIA91).


  • Complaints from occupiers of trade premises who are not happy with the conditions set by sewerage companies for putting their trade effluent into the public sewer or a refusal by the sewerage company to allow a trade effluent discharge (section 122 WIA91).
  • Disputes about water companies’ work in private land (section 159 WIA91).

Complaints we cannot deal with

As Ofwat’s powers are set out in legislation, there are, inevitably, a number of areas in which Ofwat does not have a role. Some of the things we do not deal with are the following.

  • Non-regulated activities of water companies. We do not regulate these activities, which include:
    • plumbing services (typically dealt with by water companies, who are responsible for the enforcement of the Regulations within their water supply areas)
    • insurance for water supply pipes (typically dealt with by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority)
    • waste management (typically dealt with by the Environment Agency)
    • vehicle leasing (typically dealt with by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, BVRLA)
    • fish farming (typically dealt with by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and the Environment Agency)
  • Issues which can only be dealt with through the courts. These include disputes concerning private water supplies; contractual claims; and damages claims arising out of, for example, negligence.
  • Billing disputes (typically dealt with by CCWater).
  • Water quality and pollution (typically dealt with by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI and EA)).