Incorrect water meter reading led to huge bill

Hi,
I'm hoping that someone can help...
I received a phone cal today from South Staffs Water telling me we are about to receive a large bill due to an error on their part. We moved into the property last year (nov 26th) and submitted a meter reading the day after. Apparently the water company then completed their own routine meter reading on Dec 17th and found the meter reading to be the same. Their system then calculated that we use no water and adjusted our direct debits accordingly. I was quite happy with the low bill at the time, but not suspicious as the standing charges amount was the same as our total bill at the last property. A year later they have taken another reading and found a much bigger reading than they expected (due to their incorrect reading on dec 17th) and are now saying we owe over £600 (275 units). 

This then leads me to the 2nd part of the problem. For a 3 person family they would expect our charges to be around £250 (135 units), which means that throughout the year we have been unknowingly hemorrhaging water somewhere. Had the company performed an accurate reading on the 17th Dec 2019 we would have noticed this earlier and investigated, rather than being ignorant to the problem for 13 months. 
So, my question is- where do we stand with this? I'm perfectly happy to pay for the 135 units a normal 3 person household would accrue, but feel aggrieved at paying for 275 due to their admin errors not flagging up the usage problem. 

Thanks in advance for any help/advice,

Kind regards,
Susan 

Comments

  • Cardew
    Cardew Posts: 29,036 Forumite
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    I think the first thing is for you to establish for certain if you have a leak; and if so is the leak external or internal - assuming your meter is not inside your property.
    Companies sometimes give a goodwill allowance for water lost by a leak in the pipe leading to your property, but rarely for a leak inside the house - a cistern silently overflowing into the bowl is the usual culprit. In either case you are responsible for the repair.
    Whilst you have some grounds for complaint, the weak point in your case is accepting their estimation of zero consumption and not checking your meter readings for over a year. South Staffs water usually submit metered bills 6 monthly did you not get a bill around June this year showing estimated zero water consumption?
    I would advise you initially to try and get some of the bill written off as a goodwill gesture; you can take a more forceful approach if they refuse.
    Good luck.


  • Hi, thank you for your reply. 
    Yes, I agree - we are going to do some investigating to see if we can find a leak over the next few days. 
    I must admit to not reading the bill in any depth and didn't notice the zero consumption at the time. There were charges listed and a direct debit was going out (at a similar amount to our last property), so I assumed things were in hand and the bill would go up/down over time as our usage was recorded. I found yesterday that I also supplied a meter reading online on the 6th January, but this was not recorded as "it was late" apparently, and they used an estimated reading for June too. 
    I did speak to someone at South Staffs Water yesterday who was reasonably helpful. I put forward that they should have investigated the zero consumption as suspicious and had they used my meter reading in January they would have realised that water was being used at the property (at an excessive amount). I also argued that without accurate meter readings the potential leak hasn't been flagged-up. The customer service person agreed and alluded to a goodwill gesture (leak allowance etc), so I hope we can at least take the edge off it...! 


  • Hi all,

    A quick update. An engineer came out today and found no problem with the meter etc, so the leak must be internal (our problem). However, I made the case that the use of estimated readings and them not recording my submitted reading in January led to me being unaware of the problem for 13 months, which was unfair. 

    They had some sympathy with this and agreed to half the bill, which I think is more than fair (well done SSW!). Now all I need to do is find the leak...!
  • tim_p
    tim_p Posts: 689 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Start by seeing if you’ve got a stop-thingy where the water enters the house (often kitchen or bathroom) and turn that off, then check water meter for usage.  If the meter is still moving then there’s a leak between that stop-thingy and the meter.  If the meter stops moving then the leak is the house side of the stopper. As Cardew said, a leaking cistern is a very common cause. 
    (Use of term ‘thingy’ in place of proper word for a male chicken)
  • Cardew
    Cardew Posts: 29,036 Forumite
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    tim_p said:
    (Use of term ‘thingy’ in place of proper word for a male chicken)
    Do you mean a st0pcock

  • tim_p
    tim_p Posts: 689 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Cardew said:
    tim_p said:
    (Use of term ‘thingy’ in place of proper word for a male chicken)
    Do you mean a st0pcock

    That’s the thingy!
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