Water companies should think carefully before raising prices

05 November 2013

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Chair Anne McIntosh has backed calls for UK water companies to ‘look closely’ before raising prices.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has written to companies calling on them to recognise people's financial strain.

EFRA Committee Chair Anne McIntosh adds:

“The question is whether Mr Paterson’s letter to water companies is sufficient to spur the action needed to keep water bills affordable?

“Bad debt in the water sector adds around £15 to an average household’s water bill every year, yet the Government has so far failed to implement existing provisions in the Flood and Water Management Act to tackle this issue head on.

“The EFRA Committee warned more than a year ago* that  it was simply unacceptable for hard-pressed yet honest householders to be subsidising those who are able but unwilling to pay their water bills. 

“Only three water companies have committed to introduce social tariffs under the current voluntary system even though the Government has made it clear that it expects water companies to support struggling households.

“Water companies have a lot to prove and the effectiveness of this new approach remains to be seen.”

*EFRA Commitee: the Water White Paper Report (Second Report of 2012-13) was published in July 2012. The Committee noted in that Report, at para 55:

"It is simply unacceptable that, at a time when so many are struggling to afford their water bills, customers face the additional burden of subsidising those who refuse to pay what they owe. Legislation already exists that would make it easier for water companies to recover bad debt and the Minister acknowledged that money recovered from debtors would be "money in the pocket" for those who do pay their bills."


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