Water bills ‘need to become more affordable’

Struggling consumers could benefit from more affordable water bills. 

This is according to the environment secretary Owen Paterson, who is cal…

Struggling consumers could benefit from more affordable water bills. 

This is according to the environment secretary Owen Paterson, who is calling on water companies to make sure customers get a fair deal.

Under the terms of the 2009 Price Review, firms operating in the sector are allowed to hike their tariffs further until 2015, but the minister has questioned whether this is really needed when the current economic climate is taken into consideration. 

Mr Paterson has sent a letter to all of the major companies stressing the impact the recent tough times have had on households throughout the UK. It comes after regulator Ofwat also questioned the need for increases.

The politician stated: "We know that household budgets are under pressure, and keeping water bills affordable is a crucial way we can help hardworking people.

"That is why we are pressing hard to make sure customers get a fair deal, by encouraging water companies to look closely at any price increases, introduce social tariffs for vulnerable customers and crackdown on bad debt."

While water bills have increased in line with inflation since 2009, this still outstrips household income and means hard-pressed consumers are being forced to part with more of their disposable income. If this situation continues to worsen, Britons may find themselves in debt trouble as they will not be able to keep up with their repayments. 

Ofwat has already outlined a series of measures it thinks will help consumers, including clamping down on the industry's worst performers when it comes to bad debt, improving governance standards across the sector and introducing an independent complaints procedure for customers with grievances. 

According to the regulator, the next Price Review, which will cover the 2015 to 2020 period, has the potential to reduce bills from between £120 million to £750 million a year – a massive boost for people.

By Amy White

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