Water companies halt payments as coronavirus pandemic cuts incomes

25 March 2020, 00:01

Water companies are offering to halt payments
Water companies are offering to halt payments. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Water companies in England and Wales have paused payments to help any customers who have lost their income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Recent surveys by YouGov have revealed five per cent of Brits say they have lost their job because of the crisis.

Of the 3,000 questioned, another 9 per cent said they have seen a cut to their pay or hours.

To help, water companies have encouraged anyone suffering from immediate or short-term issues paying their bills to get in contact so they can receive help.

Some of the initiatives started by companies include payment breaks, adjusting payment plans urgently to help with sudden changes in household finances and simplifying the processes for customers to get extra assistance.

They will also stop new court applications on unpaid bills during the current restrictions, and will stop any enforcement visits.

Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty said: "We know that it's an extremely difficult time for everyone at the moment, and the last thing we'd want is for anyone to worry about how they'll pay their water bill.

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Coronavirus is the cause of financial strain for many, with 5% of Brits saying they've lost their jobs
Coronavirus is the cause of financial strain for many, with 5% of Brits saying they've lost their jobs. Picture: PA

"If you're struggling to pay your bill, or you're worried you might struggle in the future, please approach your water company for help. There are lots of ways that they can support you, and all you need to do is reach out and get in touch with them."

She added: "If you or any of your family or friends need a little extra help due to particular health issues, please make sure you're signed up to your local water company's Priority Services Register."

Customers will also get advice on benefits and managing debts, particularly for customers who have not been in financial difficulties before.

In addition, water companies are seeking out customers who may have trouble paying due to being unable to leave their house.

Alternative payment methods as well as additional support are being made available for customers in this situation.

Tony Smith, chief executive of water consumer group CCW, said the company is "really pleased" that water companies are showing a willingness to be flexible

He added: "It's really important that customers who are struggling in any way don't wait to be asked and actively reach out for support, whether that's help paying a bill or getting other practical assistance."