Summary of case
This dispute was referred to us for determination under section 181 of the Water Industry Act 1991. This section deals with complaints about how water and sewerage companies exercise their powers when they carry out work on private land.
Summary of Ofwat’s final decision
The complaint was about Welsh Water’s failure to adequately consult with the complainant and the inconvenience caused to the complainant by Welsh Water when working at the property.
We determined that the reinstatement work which Welsh Water carried out on the property was sufficient to address the inconvenience caused to the complainant. However, Welsh Water failed to address its failure to adequately consult the complainant. Therefore, we determined that Welsh Water should make a payment of £375 to the Complainant.
Wider lessons for companies and customers
Water companies have the power to lay, inspect, maintain and repair or alter any pipes falling on private land. This power is exceptional and very few companies or bodies outside of the utility industry are permitted to do this. It is a power that must be exercised responsibly as customers can perceive it as being invasive.
The company must provide the landowner with reasonable notice – usually a minimum period of 3 months before carrying out the work.
We expect water companies to exercise their powers in accordance with the Act and in a manner which does not result in the land owner sustaining any loss or damage.
Beyond what we have set out above, we also expect companies to:
- Have a Code of Practice which sets out how they will operate when working in private land. We expect companies to follow their Code of Practice and any instances where they do not will be factored into our future decisions; and
- Maintain contact, and consult, with customers before, and throughout, the period of work.
When the above powers are exercised poorly, they can severely undermine customer’s trust in their water and wastewater provider.
Sections 159 and 181 of the Water Industry Act 1991
Relevant Ofwat guidance
7 June 2016
18 November 2016
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