Information from Ofwat and CCW, published today, shows that water companies are increasing financial support for their customers, with record numbers benefiting from discounted water bills. However, both organisations are calling on companies to do even more to help in the face of immediate and urgent cost of living pressures.
In October 2022, Ofwat and CCW chief executives David Black and Emma Clancy wrote to water companies setting out their shared expectation that water companies must do more to support a greater number of customers given the current pressures on the cost of living. This included considering how water companies could reduce the impact of inflation on customers’ bills for 2023-24.
Water companies submitted their plans to Ofwat and CCW in December 2022. Ofwat has today published these plans. They highlight examples of company good practice commitments, which include some water companies:
- contributing their own money to fund financial support measures and not solely relying on customer contributions;
- working to reduce the impact of inflation on 2023-24 bills, for example by deferring some element of the increase in bills due to inflation; and
- working with other utilities, housing associations, local government and charities to raise awareness and increase take-up of social tariffs and other forms of support.
While these steps are encouraging, in some cases companies are still using targets set before the current cost of living pressures emerged. Ofwat and CCW have identified areas where water companies can learn from best practice to increase support for customers struggling to pay, through:
- increasing funding of social tariffs – for example through shareholder contributions;
- improving access to and awareness of support– for example, making it easy for customers to apply for help in ways that suit their needs; and
- updating the understanding of what level of support customers are willing to fund – helping identify opportunities to expand support where customer views have not been recently sought.
Ofwat Chief Executive David Black said:
“We welcome the different actions that companies are taking to help those who need it most. The scale of cost of living challenges mean that this is and must remain a priority – water companies need to continue to improve the support they offer customers. With households facing unprecedented pressures on their finances, customers will expect to see water companies, and their shareholders, go above and beyond to support them.”
Emma Clancy, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), said:
“We’ve seen some good examples of water companies ramping up their efforts to take the worry out of water bills for customers and we particularly applaud those that are putting in shareholders’ own money to bolster support. There is no room for complacency though and the prospect of future bill increases, fuelled by high inflation and the price tag of environmental investment, means companies will have to do even more to support low-income customers. The case for a new water affordability scheme to provide fairer and consistent support for households struggling to pay their bill has never been more compelling.”
Notes to editors:
CCW’s help with your water bill page is also packed with advice and tools including its water meter calculator, Benefits Calculator and social tariff guide.
Customers who are worried about their bill should visit Ofwat’s cost of living page for four tips to follow.
Ofwat requires water companies to publish their 2023-24 charges on or before 1 February 2023; Water UK will announce average water bills in early February 2023.
Water companies’ plans to help customers with cost of living pressures, good practice and areas for improvement are available on the Ofwat website.
Links to previous relevant press notices:
- PN 37/22 33% rise in number of customers struggling to pay their water bill, 1 December 2022: https://www.ofwat.gov.uk/pn-37-22-33-rise-in-number-of-customers-struggling-to-pay-their-water-bill/
- PN 35/22 Ofwat and CCW call on companies to increase financial support for customers, 18 October 2022: https://www.ofwat.gov.uk/ofwat-and-ccw-call-on-companies-to-increase-financial-support-for-customers/