When companies mislead their customers about leakage, it is trust that drips away



Author: Lynn Parker, Senior Director Casework Enforcement and Customers

When a water company tells its customers that it is making good progress cutting leaks and saving water, they should be able to believe what they are told and take it at face value.   

Which is why customers of Welsh Water have every right to feel aggrieved that – for five years – their water company has been saying they were reducing leakage, when in reality it was heading in the opposite direction.  

These things matter and leakage is a huge frustration for customers, and it is a priority to swiftly reduce it. But, more than that, being able to trust your water company – especially a company with the privilege of being a monopoly provider of an essential service – is fundamental. 

And if customers don’t feel their company knows what is happening in the business or, worse still, is not being straight with them, that erodes trust quicker than anything. 

What we have discovered about the company’s misreporting of key information is simply unacceptable. They – and all water companies – should be in no doubt: they must be accurate and honest in reporting their performance, and we will crack down on misuse of data and abuse of confidence.  

That is why we are making the company pay £40m to benefit its customers, as compensation and recognition of its failings. The scale of the sanction is a sign of how seriously we take this, and a message to the Boards and management teams of all water companies. We will not allow companies to take their customers, the privilege of their position, or their responsibilities for granted.  

Welsh Water needs now to make real progress in cutting leakage and show it deserves to earn back the trust it has lost.