Frustrated Thames Water customers have complained that meters fitted by the firm do not work properly and have resulted in a sharp rise in bills – and one claims his costs have doubled.
The water firm has made installing meters compulsory at customers’ homes meaning many have had the devices fitted even if they don’t want one.
One annoyed customer, Mr K, says he has had three different meters fitted by the firm in the space of a year, with his bills rising as a result.
Whilst he paid £360 a year when not on a meter, he was charged £320 for a period of just six months.
Some customers are complaining that their bills have increased since getting a water meter
Although he was originally put on a meter for a trial of around a year in 2018, he was then told he would be going onto the meter after the trial, with Thames Water claiming it would save him £10 a year on his bills.
However, he claims that his first bill came then came through last year at double the price.
Although he asked to see the meter readings for the trial period as proof for the high cost, this information still hasn’t been provided by Thames Water, two years later.
He said: ‘We were informed the reason for the high cost was because we were consuming about 500 to 600 litres a day.’
According to the Energy Helpline, the average household uses 349 litres a day, meaning that Mr K’s and his partner’s supposed usage was far over the usual amount, and far more than he suspected they were using.
Mr K lives in a two bedroom house, in London with his partner, and no other residents.
Since the original trial meter was fitted, Jordan has had three new smart meters installed and six groups of different work people come around to repair a ‘leak’ it detected, despite no apparent leak to be found.
Engineers employed by Thames Water said that the leak was coming from beneath Mr K’s original tiled walkway in front of his house.
The team dug it up, only to discover that is not where the leak had originated at all, leaving Jordan to pay about £1,000 to fix the walk way.
Thames Water have said that half of customers will save money when having a meter installed
A spokesperson for Thames Water said: ‘We’re sorry Mr K has experienced problems at his property since his water meter was fitted.
‘We’re rolling out meters across our supply area in order to help customers save water and money.
‘Meters also allow us to easily spot when there is a leak, as the meter will show continuous “use” when the household isn’t using water, such as at night or when no-one is home.
‘In these cases we will alert the customer to the fact they have a leak on their property and in some cases we may be able to fix them for free.
‘Mr Ks’ meter indicated a leak on his property and engineers visited on two occasions to investigate and repair this. After both visits, data from the meter indicated the leak had been fixed, only for the leak to return at a later date.
‘Unfortunately, after the second visit an unknown error prevented the meter returning any further data and we subsequently replaced it with a new one.
‘We understand the stress events like this can cause and we’ll be sending engineers back to the property to investigate as a matter of urgency.’
Mr K is still waiting for the meter readings to show how he could possibly be using 500 to 600 litres a day and is also waiting for an engineer to fix the leak – while also having forked out around £1,000 for the damage caused to his pathway.
He is not the only customer to have encountered rising bills as a result of having a meter fitted, with many taking to social media to complain:
This customer said that her bills doubled after she was pressured to have a meter installed
A Twitter user said their bills were hiked by 200% since having a water meter installed
This user said that his bill from Thames Water claimed he used 836 litres of water a day
One Thames Water customer said having a water meter means she is paying £700 a year
Water meters made compulsory
One of the reasons that the complaints are becoming more common is because water meters were made compulsory in 2013 and are being rolled out across the whole supply area the region covers, which includes London and the Thames Valley, as it is classed as seriously water stressed.
Although Thames Water claims having a meter installed is compulsory – and it has legal powers to fit one in your household if it so wishes – this does not mean that everyone with Thames Water has one.
This could be because the firm has said it is unable to fit one for some reason, perhaps a structural difficulty, or possibly because it has so many to install, it has not yet got around to contacting a household to make an appointment.
Thames Water said it is starting installations in London before working its way out towards other regions under its jurisdiction.
While having water meters fitted are not a guaranteed way of saving money on your bill, Thames Water say its research shows that customers on a meter typically use around 12 per cent less water.
Thames Water said half of its customers save money on their water bills with a meter, while the other half can use them to track their water use and make small changes to bring their bills down.
It said it gives customers who are moving on to meters a year-long adjustment period during which they are charged on the non-metered rate.
But they are given a comparison of what their metered bill would have been for the same period.
At the end of the year, or earlier if they choose, the customer will go on to the metered rate.
How to save money on your water bill
Despite some customers complaining of price rises, there are ways that they can reduce how much they are spending on their water bills.
1. How do you pay for your bill? Households can usually choose whether to have a meter or not – depending if they are not in a water stressed area – and if not, they will have fixed bills.
Depending on the household, one method could be cheaper than the other so customers should check to see if they could save money by switching.
2. Have you got a water saving gadget? Households can save money – and water – by fitting a number of devices.
These include water butts, shower savers, which regulate the water flow, and timers. Check out Save Water, Save Money for products and tips.
3. Are you wasting water? One of the easiest ways to save money on your water bill, if on a meter, is to reduce your water usage.
This can include taking a shower instead of a bath, turning off the tap when brushing your teeth and fixing any leaking taps in the home. More tips can be found on the Energy Saving Trust site.
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