Headlines: January 27th, 2000

The head of the body that speaks up for water users has cautioned against plans to change consumer representation.Sheila Reiter, chair of the Ofwat National Customer Council, has warned against plans under the new Utilities Bill that could separate the voice of the consumer from that of the regulator.

She said: “Consumer councils will be judged ultimately not by their independence of thought and action but by their achievements in securing a better deal for customers. The consumer council must have real teeth. The council must have powers, independent of the regulator, to act on behalf of customers.”

Her advice on an effective consumer body is that it must have powers to obtain the information it needs to do its job, powers to investigate complaints and secure redress, and the power to audit how water companies handle customer complaints, thus raising standards.