Water companies freeze charges for people hit by coronavirus

Water companies in England and Wales are offering to put a halt on payments to help customers who have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus crisis.

Anyone struggling with immediate or short-term issues with paying their bills is encouraged to get in contact so they can receive help.

According to YouGov, around one in 20 Brits have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, while approximately 9% of people have had their pay or hours reduced.

Initiatives started by water companies include actively offering payment breaks, adjusting payment plans urgently to help with a sudden change in household finances, or simplifying the processes for customers to get extra assistance.

Customers can also get access to advice on benefits and managing debts, particularly those 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. These customers might be suffering from poor health or self-isolating.

Alternative payment methods and additional support are being made available for customers in this situation. Water companies 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.

‘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.’

Tony Smith, chief executive of water consumer group CCW, said the company is ‘really please’ 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.’

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