How water companies are held to account 2013-14

We use a risk-based approach for holding the companies to account for delivering their obligations, including those to customers.

Our approach means the companies are responsible for measuring and reporting on their performance – and should tell you how they are doing. This includes telling you where their performance is poor and what they are doing to put things right. This means we can spend more time focusing on those areas (or companies) where we need to take action to protect your interests.

Our approach works as follows.

1. Each company is responsible for delivering to required standards and meeting its legal and other obligations. It reports on its performance in delivering services so that everyone can see whether they met them or not. They publish:

  • key performance indicators (as often as they like but at least once a year)
  • a risk and compliance statement (once a year)
  • regulatory accounts and accounting separation information (once a year)

2. If a company fails in any way – or think there is a risk they will fail – they should set out in the information they publish how they plan to put things right or avoid possible problems.

3. We use this information– and other sources of information such as customer complaints – to decide if we need to investigate or take any action to address or prevent harm or loss to customers.

4. If companies fail to put things right, we can take action against them to protect your interests. For example, between 2005 and 2013 we made the companies pay out more than £550 million for underperforming. Almost £500 million of this was returned to customers through lower future bills or increased investment in services. The rest – which were fines – were paid to the UK government. In 2013-14 Thames Water agreed a package of financial returns to its customers totalling £86 million. This was in recognition of historic issues around their reporting of sewer flooding data. Find out more about our investigation and Thames’ package of measures.

5. If you have a complaint about your water company, our complaints process tells you what you need to do.