Got a big water Bill? Beat this.

I am posting my NWG story to help me come to terms with it myself.

Last October I bought a house which has been empty for 11 years. On the land is a derelict garage/workshop which has been unused for about 25 years. I immediately informed Northumbrian Water (now NWG) of my purchase. In February this year my wife and I moved into the house. There had previously been a water meter, presumably supplying the house and workshop, which had been stolen.

Back in November NWG had sent me a water bill for the workshop of £370. I contacted them and told them the workshop had no water supply and no drainage. They checked this, agreed with me, and (supposedly) cancelled the bill. In January they installed a new water meter on the supply to our house.

In March they re-sent the supposedly cancelled bill for £370 so I telephoned them again and explained what had happened. After 59 minutes on the telephone I was assured the bill had been sent in error and would be cancelled. I was also assured that the only water charges we would receive would be for the metered supply to our house.

About 4 weeks ago they took a meter reading - we had used 34 cubic metres of water.

Last week I received a water bill from them - for £17,189.23 (yes - you read it right).

This seems to be how they arrived at this figure:
They have a previous recorded meter reading, taken in the 1980s (long before the meter was stolen) of 3369.
They assume that, as our meter now shows 34, we must have used 6665 cubic metres of water in the 5 months we have lived here. Simple really.

Tomorrow I will call them and probably exceed my current 59 minutes record. They will apologise profusely and promise to look into it and call me back. I fully expect them to cancel this bill and in two or three months I expect them to issue it again.
Just in case anyone is interested, I will let you know what happens. Messages of sympathy will be appreciated. :beer:
Money may not buy happiness .. but it lets you be miserable in comfort.


  • System
    System Posts: 178,090 Community Admin
    Photogenic Name Dropper First Post
    Put it in writing to protect your right to escalate the complaint.
  • Robisere
    Robisere Posts: 3,237 Forumite
    First Anniversary Photogenic First Post Combo Breaker
    You have my deepest sympathy, another poor citizen assailed by the blinkered attitudes of a Utility bureaucracy. OFWAT complaints: -

    Just one question: where are you keeping all that water? Do you have a Fishing Lake now? :)
    I think this job really needs
    a much bigger hammer.
  • matelodave
    matelodave Posts: 8,606 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic First Post
    You need to write, not phone otherwise you dont have a record of the communication between you and them - either e-mail or preferably using recoded delivery
    Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers
  • Agreed email or written comms is best for proof later down the line. Spot on.
  • 17k for H20 that's a new one. Write to them recorded delivery. When I right to my bank I send it to the top person. They have to respond.
  • This is very similar to a problem I had when my electricity meter was changed, all compounded by the change occurring whilst I was in the middle of switching supplier as well. It dragged on for a year, until eventually I got a letter from a debt collector. (And yes, I had them promising to cancel the erroneous bill too, only to re-send it again a month later.)

    At that point I rang Ofgem to ask whether I should address my complaint to the new or old supplier, and within days it was all sorted. They cancelled the bill instead of correcting it, and sent me £30 for my trouble. My bill was in error by about £50 though, not £17k!

    The problem all occurs because you're dealing with people in call centres who are treated like battery hens with no power to act on their own initiative. If the query doesn't fit the script they're working to then nothing happens.
  • I just want to see OP's water cannon if they used that much!

    Seriously though a call should sort this out!
  • Jackmydad
    Jackmydad Posts: 9,186 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic First Post
    You really couldn't make it up! I'm sure you'll get it sorted, but what a PIA to have to.
    Nearest we came was having the meter changed from a prepay to a credit when we moved here.
    I couldn't get them to send us a bill for nearly a year.
    Just before the general use of internet. I had to send them a registered letter before they finally sorted it.
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