Supporting customers during the cost-of-living crisis


Person sitting at coffee table sorting through paper bills

Last week, David Black, Ofwat’s Chief Executive, along with the heads of Ofcom, Ofgem, the FCA and the CMA, met the Chancellor to discuss the impact of the cost-of-living pressures on customers in our sectors. The regulators, working with the UK Regulators Network, wrote jointly to regulated firms emphasising the importance of supporting customers in financial difficulty.

Our cost-of-living research found that only around 30% of customers are aware that financial help is available from water companies. Water companies are responsible for ensuring customers who qualify are aware of available support and can access it. No customer should be left behind, especially in challenging financial circumstances. In January this year, Ofwat and CCW called on companies to do even more to help customers in the face of immediate and urgent cost of living pressures.

Across the water sector, we expect to see high standards of customer service and support for a full diversity of customer needs, including for those in vulnerable circumstances. We are currently seeking new powers to take action against water companies across England and Wales when customer service falls short. In May, we opened a consultation to introduce new regulatory requirements on how companies treat their customers, to ensure companies better reflect customer expectations and drive higher standards of customer service, whilst supporting a full diversity of needs. In July, we will also be reporting on our review of companies’ compliance with our paying fair guidelines – to support customers to pay, get help and repay debts – which we published last year.

To further help with water affordability, we have called on water companies to trial different, innovative ways of charging customers. Affinity Water is the first company to design a charging trial under new our rules.

This year, water companies in England and Wales have been creating their plans for 2025-2030. Between March and June, we and CCW (the independent organisation for water consumers) required all companies to hold public meetings as part of an initiative called ‘Your water, your say’. Customers, businesses, environmental groups and other stakeholders could question and challenge companies on these plans, discussing topics important to them. This ranged from customer service, to the environment, to bills – and more.

In the Autumn, water companies will submit their detailed plans for 2025-2030 on how they will support customers struggling to pay, which Ofwat will then assess as part of our 2024 Price Review. We want companies to not just support their customers today, but to do even more in future.