Complaints about water rise

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The Independent Online
Ian Byatt, the water industry regulator, yesterday criticised several privatised water companies for failing to do enough to improve services to customers. The annual report on service standards by the industry watchdog, Ofwat, found that over the past year written complaints rose by 10 per cent while unplanned and prolonged interruptions to water supplies more than doubled.

Though most water companies were hit by the dry summer in 1995 and freezing temperatures last winter, some copedbetter than others.

Mr Byatt said: "I am glad to see a number of companies continue to improve their services. However, not all companies have done so and the effect is a slower improvement than in past years."

There was only a slight improvement in the proportion of billing queries answered within five working days, while the overall performance in responding to written complaints was unchanged, though 94 per cent were answered inside 10 working days.

The number of written complaints went up by 10 per cent to 171,000, while service interruptions lasting more than 12 hours more than doubled to 130,206. There was a similar increase in households suffering supply breaks for more than 24 hours. However, the quality of drinking water continued to improve, with 99.5 per cent of tests meeting Ofwat targets.

There were also worrying variations in service standards, with some companies reporting performance levels significantly below the industry average.

Mr Byatt said he was discussing with the companies involved ways of improving matters.