A watchdog says Thames Water customers are to share £120m because of the company’s continuing failure to get a grip on leaks.
Ofwat said the company had agreed to repay £65m on top of £55m already incurred for missing commitments it had made to customers to fix pipes.
The regulator said it would mean each Thames customer getting a total rebate of approximately £15 over the next two years.
Its investigation found that Thames breached two legal obligations – failing to have sufficient oversight and control of leakages.
The report concluded: “Thames Water’s Board and management did not pay enough attention to reducing leakage and that the company underestimated the significance of its underperformance on leakage when assuring Ofwat that it was meeting its statutory obligations, one of which is to deliver an efficient and economic service.”
Ofwat said the company had now made new commitments on tackling leakage and would publish its performance each month.
Its chief executive, Rachel Fletcher, said: “Thames Water failed its customers in tackling leakage and the measures we’ve announced today illustrate the scale of the company’s shortcomings and how seriously we take them.
“High leakage creates unnecessary strain on the environment, excess costs for customers and increased risk of water shortages.”
She added: “Customers don’t want to see their water company letting them down like this, but we hope the rebate they will now receive goes some way towards compensating them for their water company’s failure to live up to its commitments to cut leakage.”
The boss of Thames had told Sky News last November it was cancelling its dividend amid criticism it had put shareholder and other rewards ahead of investment and performance for customers.
The company apologised for the failures which, it said, stemmed from a decision in 2015 to develop an “innovative delivery vehicle with its infrastructure partners, to accelerate improvements in areas such as leakage.”
The company’s chief executive, Steve Robertson, said: “Reducing leakage is really important to us and to our customers.
“We met our leakage targets for a decade but our recent performance has not been good enough.
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“We let our customers down and for that we’re sorry. We have taken more control of how we manage the network and are investing significantly more in people and resources to tackle leakage, get back on track and then go beyond.
“Thanks to these changes already in place, our current leakage repair performance is our best ever at around 1,000 a week. Our focus is to restore customers’ trust and confidence in Thames Water.”