Can you rely on the information that monopoly companies publish?


Thomas Handysides, Principal at Ofwat explains the work we do to encourage companies to publish information that customers and other stakeholders can rely on – in order to use it to challenge them to deliver better services for all.

We want companies to be accountable to you, whether you’re a consumer, or another stakeholder. We want you to be able to understand and use the information that companies publish about their performance to challenge them to deliver better services. And that is also why we expect companies to have processes in place to ensure that this information can be trusted.

So what is our role in this?

Well, it’s our job to make sure that the information they publish can be trusted.

Over the summer and autumn we have been looking closely at the information companies have published about their performance . We took a closer look, checking for warning signs that the companies may not have good processes in place. We have now published our rating of the reliability of the information that each monopoly company publishes.

So what did we find?

The good news is that our assessment tells us that companies are, in the main, providing you with reliable information. And some companies have done really well.

South East Water, United Utilities and Severn Trent Water have all shown us that we can have confidence in their information. We are going to ask for less assurance information from them next year – we have moved them up to the self-assurance category. We will be carrying out the same exercise next year too, so they will have to keep up the good work. And we don’t want them to stop there either. We hope that they will think about new and better ways to check their information is correct so they can drive the sector forward.

If they do not rise to the challenge next year, we may move them back to targeted assurance. This is where we ask companies for further assurance on certain areas. In fact this has happened to two companies this year. For most of the areas we looked at we didn’t have any concerns. But we set a high bar for the self-assurance category, and these companies did not reach it this year.

Most companies find themselves in the same category as the year before, the ‘targeted assurance’ category. This means that we will need further assurance on information companies publish in certain areas where we have some concerns. The information we provide should help companies to improve for next year.

We have more serious concerns over the assurance of four companies. We will require them to provide extra assurance on all of the information they provide. This doesn’t mean that we don’t trust all the information these companies publish. Our assessment did throw up enough concerns to step in, to put in place extra measures to protect water customers.

This is the first year we have assessed companies in this way, so this will provide useful feedback for the companies. We now expect the companies to look again at their assurance processes and identify where they do well, and where they can improve.

I look forward to seeing the progress companies make in the coming year.