AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Complaints about water

Contents

Water Act 2003

Although the domestic water supply is provided by a variety of water companies, they are all subject to the Water Act 2003. This Act imposes obligations on water companies to have guaranteed standards of service and a code of practice that sets out the charges they make for their services, what should be done in an emergency, and how their complaints procedure works. In addition, the Act obliges the water company to maintain a supply of wholesome water and prohibits them from causing damage to others. This means that the water supply service must be of a quality that reflects the requirements of the European Community.

General complaints about water utility companies

You should always approach your local water and sewerage company with your complaint. Check the back of your water bill for this information or contact your local authority. Your water company will have a complaints procedure which is approved by the water regulator, the Office of Water Services (OFWAT). They must give you a free copy of their complaints procedure if you ask for one.

If you are not satisfied with the company's response

If you are not satisfied with the initial response from the company's staff, you should tell the company.

Someone more senior in the company who has not previously been involved with your complaint will review it.

Ask the Consumer Council for Water to investigate

If you are still not happy with the company's response, you will need to ask the Consumer Council for Water to investigate. This is an independent organisation that represents customers' interests. Its services are free.

You will need to tell the Consumer Council for Water why you are not happy with the company's response and how you want the matter sorted out. If possible, send copies of any papers relating to your complaint.

The Consumer Council for Water will not normally deal with your complaint until the water company has had an opportunity to sort it out.

Problems with your water supply

Complaint about your water meter reading

A relatively low proportion of domestic water supplies in England and Wales are metered. This figure is likely to rise in future because most new properties are metered. If your water is metered and you make a complaint in writing about the accuracy of your meter, the water company concerned must reply to your complaint within 10 working days of receipt of your letter. The reply must be considered before the matter is pursued further. The normal procedure will be that the water company will test the meter on site. If it is found to be accurate a £20 fee will be payable. If you have asked for the meter to be removed for an independent test then a £70 fee will be payable. No fee is payable if the meter is recording inaccurately; it will be replaced and the account adjusted accordingly.

Complaint about an interrupted utility service

If there have been any unplanned interruptions in your water supply, you may be entitled to compensation from your service provider.

Complaint about the quality of your drinking water

If the water supplied to you by your water company is unfit for human consumption, you should report this to the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) or the Office of Water Services (OFWAT), whose local office address can be found in your phone book. More information can be found below as to how you can report your problem to OFWAT or DWI.

It is the duty of the water company to supply only water which is healthy or wholesome to any premises for domestic purposes in terms of the Water Supply (Water Quality) regulations 2000. There must be no deterioration in the supply or quality of water at any time.

Complaining to OFWAT

If you are still dissatisfied, the next step is to contact your Office of Water services (OFWAT) regional Customer Service Committee (CSC) for your area. OFWAT is the water services regulator, which operates 10 regional CSC's and provides a mediation service in water service disputes. The address of the CSC for your local area will be in the telephone book.

Drinking Water Inspectorate

You can also contact the Drinking Water Inspectorate, whose job it is to look into consumer complaints and investigate incidents that affect water quality.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Water, which is an executive agency within the Department for Regional Development, is responsible for the provision of water and sewerage services throughout Northern Ireland. It is currently in the process of preparing new regulations to ensure that the standards and requirements for water fittings used in Northern Ireland are broadly similar to those contained in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.

Northern Ireland Water is also responsible for ensuring enforcement of the appropriate standards and requirements. If you live in Northern Ireland, your complaints should be directed toward them.

Contact

For more information on how to contact the Northern Ireland Water, visit their website.

In the event of an emergency, telephone their Customer Services Unit on 08457 440088.

Taking it to court

If you are still unsatisfied, it is always possible to take the matter to court. However, this would probably only be necessary for serious cases where someone has suffered an illness through drinking contaminated water, for instance.

For more information, see our 'Making a claim' section

Water in Scotland

In Scotland all domestic water is supplied by Scottish Water which is a public sector company answerable to the Scottish Parliament and is structured and managed like a private company. Most domestic users of water in Scotland still do not have water meters and instead pay for their services through the domestic water charge and the domestic sewerage charge. The domestic water charge and the domestic sewerage charge are collected by local authorities, along with the council tax. However, some domestic users in Scotland now have water meters.

Complaint about meter readings

If you have a complaint about the accuracy of your water meter, you can contact Scottish Water.

After making the complaint, you should receive a written response within 10 working days. If Scottish Water fail to do this, you may be entitled to a compensatory payment of £20. Scottish Water can carry out a meter accuracy test. If the meter reading is too high or too low (by more than 5%), Scottish Water will recalculate your bill accordingly. If the meter is accurate to within 5%, Scottish Water will charge you for the cost of the test.

If you are still unsatisfied

If you remain unsatisfied with the response to your complaint from Scottish Water, you can contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). SPSO is the final stage for complaints about water and sewage.

You can find the contact details on the SPSO website.

Complaint about water quality

Scottish Water has a duty to supply healthy and wholesome water to their customers which is healthy or wholesome to any premises for domestic purposes. There must be no deterioration in the supply or quality of water at any time.

However, if there is a deterioration in the quality of water at any time, you should lodge a complaint with SPSO.