Southern Water to give customers a share of £123 million over 'shocking' failures
Southern Water is to pay £123 million back to customers following an investigation that found the company had shown "scant regard" for the environment and deliberately acted to deceive its customers.
After a two-year investigation, water regulator Ofwat found Southern Water had failed to operate a number of its wastewater treatment works properly. This included a lack of investment which led to spills of untreated water into the environment. It was also found deliberately misreporting its performance of these sites.
As a result, the water and sewage firm has agreed to pay £91 million in penalties it avoided by manipulating results plus a further £32 million in recognition of its "serious failings" – all of which will be returned to customers.
This means that each of Southern Water's four million wastewater customers in Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight will receive a rebate of at least £61. The rebate will be applied automatically to customers' bills over a period of five years, starting in 2021 – there's no need to claim or contact the firm.
Former Southern Water customers won't be eligible for the rebate due to the terms agreed with Ofwat. For full information on who's owed, see the FAQs on the Southern Water website.
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'Southern Water let down its customers'
Ofwat chief exec Rachel Fletcher said: "What we found in this case is shocking. In all, it shows the company was being run with scant regard for its responsibilities to society and the environment. It was not just the poor operational performance, but the co-ordinated efforts to hide and deceive customers of the fact that are so troubling.
"The previous management failed to stamp out this behaviour and failed to manage its plants properly. In doing so, Southern Water let down its customers and operated in a way completely counter to the public-service ethos we expect. That is why the company deserves such a significant sanction.
"The rebates on customer bills will go some way towards putting things right. It is now for Southern Water, under its new leadership, and with the improvements it is introducing, to show it has learnt from this unacceptable behaviour and can be trusted again."
What does Southern Water say?
Ian McAulay, Southern Water's chief exec, who was appointed in 2017, said: "We have been working very hard to understand past failings and implement the changes required to ensure we better deliver for our customers and meet the standards they deserve.
"We are deeply sorry for what has happened. There are no excuses for the failings that occurred between 2010 and 2017 outlined in Ofwat's report. We have clearly fallen far short of the expectations and trust placed in us by our wastewater customers and the wider communities we serve."