What is WATRS?

The Water Redress Scheme (WATRS) is an independent service that adjudicates disputes between the customer and water and
sewerage companies or suppliers which have reached a state of deadlock.

FAQs & Downloads

Please find below Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in addition to key downloads.

WATRS was created to help the mediation and investigation roles of the Consumer Council for Water (CCW). If CCW can not settle a customer’s dispute, WATRS will provide a final judgement that is binding upon water and sewage companies. This needs to be done within six months from the date of the CCW closure letter.

WATRS is an adjudication service based entirely on documentary evidence. In order to ensure the process is fully independent and impartial, the appointed adjudicator will only consider the evidence submitted and will have no direct contact with either the customer or company concerned.

The adjudicator will consider the relevant law such as the Water Industry Act 1991 and the Water Supply and Sewage Services (Customer Service Standards) Regulations 2008, the Guaranteed Standards Scheme, as well as the company’s terms and conditions. It is the adjudicator’s role to decide what is fair and reasonable in each circumstance.

The customer can choose to accept or reject the adjudicator’s decision. If the customer accepts the decision, the company is contractually bound to provide the redress ordered by the adjudicator. If the customer decides to reject the decision, the case will close and the customer is free to pursue their claim through the courts.

The process for WATRS cases will be as follows:

1.  The customer must first raise the complaint with their water company directly.

2.  Customers of water and/or water and sewerage companies can apply to WATRS if they meet all of the following requirements:

  • They have reached the end of the company’s complaints procedure
  • They have referred their unresolved dispute to the Consumer Council for Water (CCW)
  • CCW has written to the customer saying that they can apply to WATRS (within six months)

3.  Non-household retail customers can apply to WATRS if they meet at least one of the following four categories:

  • They have reached the end of the company’s complaints procedure or the company has issued a final position letter to the customer; or
  • The dispute remains unresolved eight weeks after the customer first complained to the company; or
  • The dispute has been referred to CCW but is unresolved after their mediation; or
  • The dispute has been referred to CCW but remains unresolved four weeks later

4.  Not all disputes can be considered by WATRS. See the WATRS Scheme Rules for full details (at www.watrs.org). If we can deal with the matter, CCW will provide your case file on each case.

5.  If we can consider the dispute, we will send the customer’s application and supporting evidence to the company. The company will have ten working days to either:

  • Settle the dispute by giving the customer everything asked for or by reaching an alternative agreement with the customer (if this happens, the case is closed); or
  • Send a written response to the claim, along with supporting evidence

The company will also have a limited opportunity to say that WATRS is not able to consider the dispute. If this happens, WATRS will decide if it can deal with the dispute.

6.  Where the company sends a written response to the claim, it will be shared with the customer, who will have five working days to comment on it. The customer cannot introduce any new matters or new evidence at this stage.

7.  A WATRS adjudicator will then weigh up all of the information and evidence in the case, as well as the relevant law, and will prepare a written decision containing full reasons.

8.  The adjudicator’s decision will be sent to the parties as a preliminary decision. Both the customer and the company will have five working days to comment on the preliminary decision.

  • The customer’s comments may only:
    • highlight factual inaccuracies;
    • highlight errors in law; or
    • submit additional evidence relating to points already raised in the case
  • The company’s comments may only:
    • highlight factual inaccuracies;
    • highlight errors in law; or
    • highlight instances where the adjudicator has acted outside of the powers granted under the Scheme Rules

9.  The comments on the preliminary decision will be sent to the adjudicator, who will have three working days to make any changes. The adjudicator will then produce the Final Decision.

10.  If the customer accepts the Final Decision within 20 working days, it will be binding on the company. If the customer rejects the Final Decision or does not accept it within 20 working days, the company will not have to do what the adjudicator has said.

In order to achieve a fair and reasonable outcome for both parties to a dispute, WATRS adheres to the following principles:

  • Both the consumer and the company will be treated fairly and equally to ensure that neither party is disadvantaged
  • Adjudicators are independent and will at all times act objectively, promoting neither the position of the consumer nor that of the company
  • Adjudicators will consider all the evidence presented by the parties, the specific circumstances of the case, and any other information directly relevant to the dispute
  • Adjudicators shall consider whether it is fair and reasonable to request further information or evidence from either party to a dispute
  • Equal consideration will be given to the word of the consumer and the word of the company
  • Adjudicators will consider all relevant law, the company’s terms and conditions, the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS) and any other relevant policy document
  • Full reasons for any decision will always be provided

WATRS is guided at all times by the following core principles:

  • Independence   

It must be independent of water companies and any other stakeholders (e.g. a consumer advocate) with a conflict of interest.

  • Fairness and impartiality

It must be able to take a neutral, objective and balanced view, and deliver outcomes based on clear policy/rules.

  • Proportionality   

It must undertake analysis and make decisions proportionate to the scale and nature of the problem.

  • Consistency   

It must ensure that decisions are clear and consistent from case to case.

  • Transparency

It must ensure that decisions are public and are seen to be made without prejudice; highlight failings in policy or practice; drive service improvements and act as a deterrent. The process must, however, maintain the confidentiality of individual complainants.

  • Effectiveness

It will meet its objectives and do so in a way that provides value-for-money through cost-effective, timely delivery.

  • Accountability 

It must be monitored and tested to ensure that it delivers efficient and effective outcomes for consumers, and that it is accountable to its users and the water industry.

  • Accessibility 

It must be available to all eligible complainants and easily available to consumers with different needs through the most appropriate channel (for example telephone, e-mail, website and letter); and it must ensure that its role is made clear so that consumers understand the process and know who to contact.

Please note that all companies who are part of the WATRS scheme pay towards its cost as there is no cost to the consumer. 

You can read our downloads to the left for help, or contact our team. 

Consumer Council for Water (CCW)

Visit the CCW website for further information, help and advice about your water and sewerage service or supplier. Alternatively, you can email CCW at [email protected], call on 0300 034 2222 (England) / 00300 034 3333 (Wales) or write to it at Consumer Council for Water, First Floor, Victoria Square House, Victoria Square, Birmingham, B2 4AJ.

Oversight

The operation, independence and effectiveness of WATRS is overseen and assured by the WATRS Alternative Dispute Resolution Panel (the ADR Panel) which has been established to ensure the integrity of the Scheme. More details of the ADR Panel's work can be obtained on the Resolving Water Disputes website. 

WATRS Review 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019

WATRS Review Cover Letter, 3rd Review Jan 2018

WATRS Third Review, Jan 2018

ADR Panel Terms of Reference (2019)

ADR Panel Terms of Reference (2022)

WATRS is an independent dispute resolution service. Your claim will be considered by an independent adjudicator, who has a legal degree.

You may wish to contact the following organisations:

  • Consumer Council for Water (CCW)
    On 0300 034 2222 (England) or 0300 034 3333 (Wales). Alternatively, you can visit their website at: https://www.ccwater.org.uk/.

In delivering its consumer dispute resolution services such as WATRS, CEDR seeks to adhere to, and where possible build upon, the competencies set out in the Ombudsman Association’s Caseworker Competency Framework, which was created in 2018. The document sets out what is considered to be good practice in the way in which caseworkers interact with others and make decisions. A copy of the policy is located under the downloads section on the left.

How to use the Case Management System

The video shows a customer or representative how to register a new complaint and upload information on the secure case management system. The system will be used to communicate with you and for you to see what is happening on your case. You will be able to supply us with all the required information, see what the water company has said and keep you up to date with the progress of your case.  Please note that the file size is 100mb and you will receive an email notification at each stage of the process. Please contact us if you need any assistance with registering a case or any questions about our case management system.

Please note that the CMS is most compatible with Google Chrome. Please contact the Enquiries & Administration team, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm if you have any questions or need assistance using the case management system. The team can be contacted on free call 0800 008 6909.

The steps you must take before submitting a complaint

Step 1.

The customer makes a complaint to the company directly and if the company isn’t able to resolve the dispute the matter is referred to CCW for mediation and/or investigation. All cases relating to household consumers must go first to CCW before moving to the next stage of the process. However, for non-household consumers the case can be referred directly to WATRS.

Step 2.

If CCW are unable to settle the dispute, the customer can apply to WATRS for independent adjudication. WATRS receives and reviews the application form and evidence/information provided and sends the application to the company to respond to the application. When it comes to the evidence, we will ask you to provide things like: the date/s you first noticed the issue and complained to the company, any copies of correspondence or details of phone calls (such as dates, times and names of the members of staff you spoke to) and any other evidence that demonstrates the issue. CCW will have this information and will send it on your behalf as part of the process for WATRS to deal with the matter.

Step 3.

Once the complete case file is received, an independent adjudicator (who is not employed by or associated with the company or CCW) makes a final decision based on the available information. The customer can then decide whether to accept or reject the adjudicator’s final decision. If the customer accepts, the company has to do what the adjudicator has said.

Companies covered

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Before making a complaint you should read our Guidance Notes.

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CEDR can provide dispute resolution services for business in most sectors.

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