Service and reliability have declined after privatisation and deregulation. This reduction in service provision tends to affect ordinary householders far more adversely than large industrial enterprises, which often have back up power sources and benefit from cut-rate prices.
The supposed efficiency gains to be made by private, competitive companies, have too often been made through short term cost savings. These include cuts to safety, use of shoddy materials, deferred maintenance, smaller training and research budgets and downsizing workforces. Old equipment is not regularly serviced nor replaced in advance of likely failure, pipes leak, and treatment plants become less effective. As a result there are more accidents and equipment breakdowns.
For electricity networks this means an increase in equipment-related blackouts as well as blackouts related to network congestion because planning and responsibility for network maintenance and development is not a market priority. For water and sewerage it means interruptions to water supply, leaking pipes, sewer overflows and water contamination.
In the public service it was not uncommon for employees to have a strong public service ethos, particularly in the utilities where they "traditionally took pride in their safety record, in the quality and impartiality of advice offered to consumers, and in a number of socially responsible activities such as free servicing of old age pensioners' appliances." This was lost as employees were forced to take a more commercial view of their work.
In the case of services such as water and electricity the conflict between commercial motives and environmental protection are also apparent as increased usage earns higher profits for private corporations but harms the environment.