AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Water

Contents

All water companies must comply with the Water Act 2003. This imposes obligations on water companies to have guaranteed standards of service and a code of practice. These set out the charges they make for their services, what should be done in an emergency and how their complaints procedure works.

In addition, water companies must supply water of a quality that reflects the requirements of the European Community. It also bans them from causing harm to consumers.

General complaints about water utility companies

You should always approach your local water and sewerage company with your complaint. Your water company will have a complaints procedure that 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're not happy with the company's response

If you're not happy with the initial response, tell the company. Someone more senior in the company who hasn't previously been involved with your complaint must review it.

The Consumer Council for Water

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

You'll need to tell the council why you're not happy with the company's response and how you want the matter sorted out. If possible, send copies of any documents relating to your complaint.

The council won't normally deal with your complaint until the water company has had an opportunity to sort it out.

Complaints about your water supply

Meter readings

Some domestic water supplies in England and Wales are metered. If your water is metered and you make a complaint in writing about the inaccuracy of your meter, the water company must reply to your complaint within 10 working days of receiving your letter.

Usually the water company will test the meter on site. If it's found to be accurate after all, you'll have to pay a testing fee. If the meter is found to be recording inaccurately, you shouldn't have to pay the fee. The meter should be replaced and your account adjusted accordingly.

Interrupted water supply

If there has been any unplanned interruptions in your water supply, you may be entitled to compensation.

Quality of drinking water

If the water supplied is unfit to drink, you should report this to the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI). Its job is to look into consumer complaints and investigate incidents that affect water quality. Alternatively, you can report it to Ofwat.

It's the duty of the water company to supply only healthy water to homes.

If you've complained to the DWI and you're still not happy, the next step is to contact Ofwat, the water services regulator.

Taking it to court

If you're still unhappy, it's 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.

Northern Ireland

The Water Service, which is an executive agency within the Department for Regional Development, is responsible for the provision of water and sewerage services throughout Northern Ireland.

The Water Service is also responsible for ensuring enforcement of the appropriate standards and requirements.

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 don't 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.

Meter readings

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

After making the complaint, you should receive a written response within 10 working days. If Scottish Water fails 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%, they'll 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're still not happy

If you're still unhappy with the response, you can contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. This has powers to deal with complaints against Scottish Water.

Water quality

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

Should there be a deterioration in the quality of water at any time, you should lodge a complaint with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.