Complaints about water companies across England and Wales have risen by ten per cent over the past year, a consumer watchdog has revealed.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) said it had received 13,603 complaints between April 1st 2006 and March 31st 2007.
Customer frustration over bills and charges were responsible for most of the concerns raised with the watchdog, accounting for 49 per cent of all complaints.
Concerns about new billing systems and the inability of customers to ring companies to complain about them were both cited as causes for the rising number of problems reported by consumers.
Four companies dominate the rise, CCWater confirmed, with complaints about Severn Trent Water, South East Water, Southern Water and United Utilities "surging" as a result of problems with their billing systems.
Severn Trent saw the largest number of complaints, with reported concerns about the company's services up 36 per cent to 2,652 over the year.
In a statement the company stressed that it was "disappointed" by the rise and was "determined" to address the issues raised by its customers.
United Utilities experienced the second highest number of complaints at 2,325, an increase of 19 per cent on the previous year.
Aside from the main four offenders, complaints about other water and sewage remained stable or fell over the year.
However South West Water, which experienced a fall of 15 per cent, still attracted the largest number of complaints as a proportion of its customer based, CCWater said.
CCWater chair Dame Yve Buckland said the figures showed that water companies would need to take "meaningful action" to satisfy their customers and called for the introduction of regulatory incentives to promote innovation within the industry in order to meet consumer needs, particularly in relation to customer service.
"Water companies cannot be complacent and should strive not only to satisfy customers' expectations, but exceed them," she said.