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Water Redress (WATRS)
How we can help you make a complaint
How we can help you make a complaint
How we do it
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:
- The customer must first raise the complaint with their water company directly.
- 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)
- 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
- Not all disputes can be considered by WATRS. See the WATRS Scheme Rules for full details. If we can deal with the matter, CCW will provide your case file on each case.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- The customer’s comments may only:
- 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.
- 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.
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 https://www.ccwater.org.uk/
- Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB):
If you need assistance with any legal aspects of the service/complaint. Their advice line is 03444 111 444 or visit their website https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
- Resolving Water Disputes:
More details of the ADR Panel's work can be obtained on the Resolving Water Disputes website
- Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat):
If your complaint relates to something only the regulator can consider, Ofwat are likely the more appropriate body to contact. Visit their website www.ofwat.gov.uk
- Information Commissioner's Office (ICO):
If your complaint relates to any data protection issues, ICO are likely the more appropriate body to contact. You can call them on 0303 123 1113 or visit their website www.ico.org.uk
- Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI):
- Environment Agency (EA):
Guidelines and Principles
Guidelines and Principles
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:
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.
It must undertake analysis and make decisions proportionate to the scale and nature of the problem.
It must ensure that decisions are clear and consistent from case to case.
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.
It will meet its objectives and do so in a way that provides value-for-money through cost-effective, timely delivery.
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.
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.
Casework Competency Framework
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 documents section.
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 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@example.com, 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.
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
I have a complaint with my water and/or sewerage provider, can WATRS help me?
Yes. Before bringing a claim to WATRS, you must first complete the water company’s complaints’ process and must then refer your complaint to the Consumer Council for Water (CCW). If you remain dissatisfied at the end of the CCW process, you are eligible to bring your complaint to WATRS for a final resolution.
What powers does WATRS have?
If a WATRS adjudicator agrees with your complaint, he or she can tell the water company to pay you some money as compensation, to give you an apology or an explanation, to take some action or to do something about a bill or bills. The water company will only have to do what the adjudicator says if you choose to accept the decision.
Are there any guidance notes explaining who WATRS are and what they can do?
Yes, our website contains Guidance Notes for Customers in English and Welsh. This document will assist in your understanding of how the scheme works and the adjudication process. There are also redacted copies of adjudicator decisions available on the website under the heading Decisions.
How much will it cost me to come to WATRS?
WATRS is free of charge to customers. All companies who are part of the Water Redress Scheme pay towards its cost.
Can I claim for the costs of making an application to WATRS?
No, you cannot claim any money from WATRS for your time or expense in completing the WATRS application form or taking your case through our adjudication process.
Who can complain?
Who can complain?
Who can complain?
You can apply to WATRS if you receive water and/or sewerage services provided by a water and/or sewerage company or licensee in England and Wales.
If you receive water and/or sewerage services in Scotland you may be able to apply to the Scottish Parliamentary Services Ombudsman www.spso.org.uk
How do I know if I am a non-household retail customer?
The easiest way to check is to find out who you pay your bills to and then to look at the list on the WATRS website under companies covered to see which category the company is in.
What is a non-household retail customer?
Whether you are a non-household or a household customer depends on the principal use of the premises to which the service is provided. Household premises are where a person has his/her home and where the principal use of the premises is as a home. A farm, for example, serves both as the farmer’s place of business and his/her home but ordinarily its primary or principal use is as a business. Contrast this with a person who works from home and uses a room in his/her house as an office – the principal use of the premises here is as a home. An easy way to check is to look at the list of companies to see whether they are a wholesaler/domestic customer supplier or a non-household retailer.
What's the difference between a water wholesaler and a non-household retailer?
Eligible businesses, charities and public sector customers are no longer restricted to buying retail water services from their regional water company – instead they are free to choose a retail supplier.
A water wholesaler (generally the incumbent regional water company) is the company responsible for supplying water to customers’ premises and removing waste water from them. A non-household retailer is responsible for customer facing services such as billing.
I have difficulties completing forms. Will you help?
We cannot give you advice about what to claim for, but for those customers requiring assistance with completing our online forms due to a disability (or other issue that requires additional support) we are happy to discuss this with you and to make the necessary reasonable adjustments to help you.
How do I make a claim?
You will need to fill in an application via our online portal. CCW may be able to complete this for you to commence the process. Alternatively, you can download and email/ post an application form. When you are making your claim think about the evidence you will need to support your case – so if for example your property has been flooded and your claim is for things that have been damaged include things like photographs of the damaged items.
How will I know what to send to WATRS when I make an application?
If you are a household customer, as part of the process CCW will send WATRS a copy of their file regarding your complaint – so WATRS will see what you and the company have sent to CCW. When you make your application it is very important that if you are claiming compensation you think about the things you are complaining about and how you would demonstrate to the adjudicator that you should be compensated for them. So for instance, if your property has been flooded and you want to claim for the things that have been damaged, do you have any photographs showing the damaged items, or any receipts or credit card statements showing that you bought the items? If so, send these with your application. If you are claiming about how you have been charged or how the company has treated you, you should send documents such as bills and letters, emails and texts between yourself and your water company.
If you are a non-household retail customer you may have gone through CCW. In that case, CCW will send a copy of their file relating to your complaint to WATRS. If you have not gone through CCW, you will need to include all relevant documents, including any contract, that you think support and prove your claim.
How does WATRS process my application?
Both you and the water company provide information and evidence to WATRS – anything you send to WATRS will be sent to the company and anything the company sends to WATRS will be sent to you. Remember to send all documents and evidence with your application. If you are a domestic customer (or a non-domestic customer who has gone to CCW) CCW will also send anything you or the company has sent to it to WATRS. Once all the information and evidence has been sent to WATRS, this will be sent to the adjudicator who will consider all of it and make a decision – the guidance gives more details about how the process works. Very occasionally if the adjudicator requires any additional information or evidence in order to make a decision in the case, WATRS will contact you – normally the adjudicator will just use the information you supply with your application, the company sends with its response and anything sent to WATRS by CCW.
Making a decision
Making a decision
Who will make a decision in my case?
WATRS is an independent and impartial dispute resolution service. Your claim will be considered by an independent adjudicator, who is usually legally qualified.
Please note that the independent adjudicator is not employed by or associated with CCW or the water companies. As part of their role, they review all documents/ photos/ videos and information sent by the customer, CCW and the company before reaching a final decision.
How does the adjudicator decide the outcome of a dispute?
In every case, the adjudicator will look at what both you, CCW and the company have said ( all evidence that has been put forward). The adjudicator will take a view as to whether or not the water company has acted reasonably. If the adjudicator finds that the water company has acted reasonably, your complaint will not be upheld. If the adjudicator finds that the water company has not acted reasonably, the adjudicator can award one or more of the remedies that you asked for on the application form, as long as you can show that you are entitled to it. Remember, if you have asked for compensation – for instance, because something has been damaged or you have incurred costs – you need to provide evidence to show that it should be paid to you. For more information, please see the guide to compensation for inconvenience and distress.
Please note that independent adjudicator are not employed by or associated with CCW or the water companies. As part of their role, they review all documents/ photos/ videos and information sent by the customer, CCW and the company before reaching a final decision. Once a final decision is issued, it is not subject to any appeal or further review.
What is a Preliminary decision?
A preliminary decision is a way of giving both sides – the customer and the company – a chance to look at the decision [the independent adjudicator has made] and to tell the adjudicator if they have misunderstood the facts or not taken into account a particular piece of evidence or to provide the adjudicator with additional information or evidence that relates to the claim that he/she has not had the opportunity to see.
What to include in any comments about the Preliminary Decision?
- You can only make comments on points that you have already raised in the case. The comments can relate to whether you consider the adjudicator has said something that is factually or legally incorrect. You can’t introduce a new point or complaint.
- Please note that even if the adjudicator does not refer to a specific document, the adjudicator will have read all of the documents provided by you (or CCW on your behalf) and the company. You can send in any evidence eg letters, emails, photos, bills, screenshots of contacts with the company that are relevant to your claim that the adjudicator has not seen. But remember this evidence must relate to points already raised in the case, and you cannot bring up any new complaints now.
- Your comments on the Preliminary Decision will be sent to the adjudicator, who will decide if they can be taken into account or not.
How long does it take WATRS to make a decision?
The vast majority of cases are resolved within six weeks of an application to WATRS.
What happens when the adjudicator's decision has been made?
When the adjudicator has made a decision it is sent to both you and the company – you then have 20 working days to tell us if you accept or reject it. If you accept the decision, the water company will have to do what the adjudicator has told them to do. If you reject the decision, or if you do not respond within 20 working days, the adjudicator’s decision will have no effect and the water company will not have to do anything.
What if I don't like the decision made by WATRS?
If you are unhappy with the adjudicator’s decision you may reject it. WATRS does not consider appeals, and your only other option is to go to court (or in some cases, such as in metering disputes, to an arbitrator).
What if I don’t agree with the Final Decision?
You might not agree with the decision – if that is the case you do not have to accept the final decision. If you think that the independent adjudicator has misunderstood the facts or not taken into account a particular piece of evidence then you have 5 working days to make comments via the Preliminary Decision.
I only agree with part of the adjudicator's decision. Can I accept part of the decision?
No, you can only accept the decision in full or reject it in full. If you decide not to accept the decision it will have no effect. There is no appeals mechanism.
The outcome of my case was different to a case study published on the WATRS website. Why did my claim not succeed like a similar case on your website?
Each case is considered on its own merits and evidence. Whilst circumstances may be similar, this does not mean outcomes will be identical.
Types of complaints
Types of complaints
The company has billed me incorrectly, I have disputed these charges but the company does not agree. Can WATRS help me?
Yes. WATRS can accept an application which concerns charges applied by a water company for water and/or sewerage services. Remember you will need to send in documents such as bills, letters and emails you have had with the company to show why you think you have been charged incorrectly.
The company has increased its charges without any notification. Can WATRS make the company decrease its charges?
WATRS cannot make a company decrease its charges or change its tariffs if they have been set properly but WATRS look at how the company increased its charges and how it has dealt with you – what customer service you received. You will need to provide supporting evidence with your application, such as bills, letters and emails with the company which show charges have increased and evidence that supports your view that the charges should not have been increased.
The company advised me of a leak at my property. However, it did not help me resolve this, resulting in higher charges being applied to my account. Can WATRS deal with this?
Yes. WATRS can consider applications which relate to the manner in which the company handled your complaint. You will need to provide evidence such as letters, emails, bills and notes of telephone calls about the leakage and how the company dealt with you – if you have had to use a plumber or someone to investigate and repair the leak think about getting a letter, statement or report from them setting out what they found and when.
The company did not tell me that I could save money if I installed a water meter. Can WATRS make the company reimburse charges?
Generally no – companies are not required to tell you how you can save money – but WATRS can look at the customer service you received as well as disputes concerning payments made to a company or charges applied by a company.
The company did not tell me that I could save money if I switched suppliers. Can WATRS make the company reimburse the amount I would have saved?
Generally no – companies are not required to tell you how you can save money – but WATRS can look at the customer service you received as well as how charges have been applied by a company.
I want to change suppliers but I have been told that I am not eligible, can WATRS help me?
Generally no, disputes regarding eligibility to switch are dealt with by Ofwat: www.ofwat.gov.uk/regulated-companies/markets/business-retail-market/who-is-eligible
Can anyone switch suppliers?
No, only non-household customers with business premises in England can choose their water supplier. Information and guidance about switching can be found at: www.ofwat.gov.uk/regulated-companies/markets/business-retail-market/who-is-eligible
Different rules apply in Wales: www.dwrcymru.com/en/Openwater/FAQ.aspx
I have a dispute with my supplier but they say that the wholesaler is to blame, can WATRS help me?
WATRS can look at disputes between you and the company that you pay your bills to (your supplier) to see what level of customer service you have been provided with but WATRS cannot make another company (the wholesaler) provide a service – so if for example you are waiting for a new connection and that connection can only be made by the wholesale company WATRS will not be able to tell the wholesale company to make the connection but they will be able to look at the customer service you have been provided with by your supplier.
Is CEDR registered under the Data Protection Act 2018?
Yes, we are registered under the Data Protection Act 2018.
What information do we collect? How do we use it? How is it protected?
When you apply for adjudication, we need to know your name, address, e-mail address and details of the matters in dispute. We also ask for your telephone number to enable us to contact you if there are any problems. The information collected is used only to allow us to process your application. The information WILL NOT be used to send you any marketing material for other CEDR Services. When you apply for adjudication, secure server software (SSL) encrypts all information you input before it is sent to us. Furthermore, as required by the UK Data Protection regulations, we follow strict security procedures in the storage and disclosure of the information that you have given us, to prevent unauthorised access.
Will CEDR Services Ltd disclose the information it collects to outside parties?
We do not sell, trade or rent your personal information to others. The only people with access to your information will be CEDR staff, the water supplier or provider and the Adjudicator. We may produce aggregate statistics about applications under CEDR for public consumption but these statistics will include no personally identifying information.
Complaints about CEDR
Complaints about CEDR
What if I want to complain about CEDR?
If you want to complain about CEDR please read our Complaints Procedure. Once you have read the Complaints Procedure and you want to submit your complaint, please use our Complaint Form below. Please note that adjudicator decisions are out of scope and are unable to be reviewed or appealed. Also, if a customer or subscribing company wish to bring a complaint about CEDR, they must pay their own costs of preparing the complaint.
Please note that if you require a reasonable adjustment, a member of the team can take your complaint over the phone.