Figures published this week show that existing consumer debt in the water industry has risen £30M between 2004/5 and 2005/6.
The level of household water bills unpaid for less than 12 months in 2005-06 was £446 million, but the regulator said that much of this is likely to be collected through companies' debt recovery practices. Of this, £122 million had only recently been billed. Older debt (revenue outstanding for over 12 months) totalled just over £490 million, £30 million more than in 2004-05.Ofwat's head of consumer affairs Sue Cox said: 'Once a customer's debt slips over a year old, the next year's bill will become due which can make the problem worse and make it difficult for them to get back on track.'Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: 'The water industry, Government and consumers all have a role in keeping down debt. Today's figures show a lower increase in debt than we feared, following last year's sharp increase in bills, but the underlying problem is still huge. There is no room for hand-wringing - all agencies need to find better ways of reminding customers that they owe money, and how they can pay.