Supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances

Research we commissioned shows that there has been a big increase in support for water customers who are potentially in circumstances that make them vulnerable, yet the sector still has a long way to go to meet customers’ needs.

To accompany the report, we created a practitioners’ pack which consolidates the research, advice and resources gained throughout the course of the research conducted for our vulnerability focus report. The aim of this pack is to help companies to:

  • define their starting point when it comes to working with customers in circumstances that make them vulnerable;
  • identify the key areas to focus on; provide examples of what good looks like when it comes to dealing with specific customer needs; and
  • provide examples of practices that water companies have found useful in assisting their customers who have found themselves in circumstances that make them vulnerable.

Supporting customers that need special assistance

Water companies are required to maintain a register of customers that need special assistance to access services – particularly in emergencies.

Every company is aiming to have at least 7% of customers on their priority services register by 2025. Some companies also have specific service promises (‘performance commitments’) in how they treat customers in vulnerable circumstances.

Supporting customers with cost of living pressures

We know many people are struggling with the cost of living. In October 2022,we and CCW – the consumer representative body for water customers in England and Wales – jointly wrote to all water companies to ask them to set out their plans for supporting customers through cost of living pressures. Research by Ofwat shows that more customers are struggling with household bills and that two-thirds expect their situation to worsen in the coming year.

Water companies submitted their plans to Ofwat and CCW in December 2022. Ofwat has published these plans. They show that water companies are increasing financial support for their customers, with record numbers benefiting from discounted water bills. However, both Ofwat and CCW have called on companies to do even more to help in the face of immediate and urgent cost of living pressures.

Our work to protect consumers

We carry out a range of work to protect residential consumers in England and Wales.

This includes developing a new licence condition for water companies to focus on their customers.

Find out more about our consumer policy work.