All customers deserve to receive a high level of support from their water company, no matter their circumstances or vulnerabilities. We are clear that water companies need to improve the service they provide to all customers, including the support they provide during incidents. Our vulnerability guidance consultation, launched on 27 July, is part of our ongoing work to push companies to provide the best possible service for all their customers. We also recently consulted on our new customer-focused licence condition, which will give us new powers to take action against companies when their customer service falls short of our expectations.
Above and beyond providing better service to all customers, our vulnerability guidance consultation makes clear that support needs to be available to any customer who requires extra help. This could be, for example, due to disability, or a mental health condition, because they have young children, or are unable to speak English.
We hope that our proposed vulnerability guidance will contribute to improving customer services, so that all customers, no matter what their circumstances, receive the support they need.
There are five proposed objectives for water companies in the draft guidance. Companies should be:
- Delivering a high standard of service and support. Those needing extra support should receive – and be happy with – the extra support they need.
- Creating services that are inclusive by design, so that customers who have undeclared vulnerabilities are not harmed.
- Creating or maintaining systems that can identify customers who need extra help, and allowing those customers who can self-declare to do so easily.
- Effectively recording and checking customers’ extra needs, as well as informing them of how their data is being used.
- Putting clear vulnerability strategies in place for supporting those customers who need extra help, for the short, medium and long term. We propose that these vulnerability strategies should be published by water companies by the end of June 2024.
We expect water companies to deliver fully on all our expectations. If they take an alternative approach, we will need to see evidence of why that approach will better meet our objectives. We will continue to hold companies to account so that outcomes are improved and customers are protected.
Vulnerability guidance consultation response
Ofwat Centre City Tower
7 Hill Street