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Water complaints figures: a mixed bag

Water graphic
Water graphic

by Jo Sword

Complaints aimed at water companies in Kent are on the way down overall, but one company has still been singled out for stinging criticism.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) has revealed that two of the three firms which serve Kent have seen figures drop over the past year.

Dame Yve Buckland, chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: "Figures show a step in the right direction, but it is not good news for all water customers. We are still particularly concerned with South East Water’s complaint figures.

"For a smaller company that only provides water, and is not involved in the sewerage side of the business, South East Water’s complaint figures are very poor and have been for several years.”

Despite the severe comment from Dame Yve Buckland, South East Water did see complaints drop by more than 12 per cent in 2008/09 compared to the year before; the company puts this down to a new 150-strong customer service centre and technical support team based in Snodland.

However, the firm does recognise that complaint levels are still too high. Steve George, customer services director said: “We are making steady progress on resolving customer queries before they become complaints; and where customers do complain, we deal with them fairly and efficiently at that first stage.”

Southern Water, which removes sewerage from all of Kent and Medway but supplies water to parts of East Kent, Medway and the Isle of Sheppey, saw a 48 per cent fall in customer complaints.

Although that is a huge drop the CCW says the 25,125 calls from disgruntled customers the firm received during 2008/09 was still too high.

Darren Bentham, Director of Customer Services at Southern Water said he accepted what the watchdog said: “For me any complaints are bad new and that is why we are looking to reduce complaints as far as we can.”

Listen to Darren Bentham explain his company's position

Veolia Water Southeast, formerly Folkestone and Dover Water Services, saw their complaints rise 16 per cent. Although it may sound a lot, the firm only supplies to parts of East Kent and received just 165 complaints last year.

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