Residential Water Supply - Estimated bill
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You can easily tell if you have an estimated bill as it will have an ‘E’ next to the figure on the bill. You will be sent estimated bills if your supplier is unable to obtain meter readings. Where possible, estimates are based on past usage. Estimated bills can sometimes work out higher or lower, particularly if you have recently had a meter installed. If you receive an estimated bill but would like your bill to be based on a true reading, your supplier should accept a reading taken by yourself and will reissue the bill.
If your supplier is unhelpful in dealing with an estimated bill (i.e. not permitting you to replace it with your own meter reading) then you can escalate your case to the Consumer Council for Water as a last resort.You should know
- If you have a complaint about your water company, you should first contact them and raise your concern via Resolver.
- Each water company has a complaint process as required by Ofwat.
- If it's not resolved on your first try, you should escalate your case
- If the issue cannot be resolved with the water company, you can take your case to the Consumer Council for Water
How is your water bill calculated?
Your water bill is comprised of a number of different elements. These are:
- Standing charge for water, which is fixed and covers the costs to the company of reading, maintaining and replacing meters and administering customers’ accounts
- charge for water, measured in cubic metres (m3)
- standing charge for used (waste) water, which is fixed and covers the same costs as the standing charge outlined above
- charge for collecting and treating your dirty water, measured in cubic metres.
Where is my water meter?
Your meter will normally be located:
- outside your home (look for a small metal or plastic cover in your driveway, garden or nearby footpath)
- in a small wall-mounted box on the side of your property
- inside your property (normally where the water supply pipe enters your home, usually under the kitchen sink).
How to read your water meter
Your water meter has two sets of numbers on it. The first is a serial number - this should be the same as on your account number. This number will remain static. The second set are black or white or digital numbers. These numbers will change based on the amount of water used. This is the number you should use for giving a meter reading.
Can I request a water meter?
You have the right to request a meter. This should be free of charge unless changes to your plumbing are required.
Your water company should install the meter within three months of your request. If it does not do this, the company should offer to adjust your bill to reflect the charges you would have paid if you had been on a meter.
The company can refuse your request to install a meter if it would be impractical or too expensive to do so.
Will I get two bills?
Only if you receive sewerage from a separate supplier to your water supplier. If your rainwater runs into the sewerage drains, then you may also be charged for this as part of the sewerage charges.
Guaranteed service standards
All customers of water and sewerage companies are entitled to guaranteed minimum standards of service, as laid down by the government. These rights are known as the guaranteed standards scheme (GSS). Where a company fails to meet any of these standards of service, then it is required to make a specified payment to the affected customer. These include:
- Appointments not made properly, £20
- Appointment not kept, £20
- Low water pressure, £25
- Interruptions to supply without correct notice, £20
- Supply not restored, £20 for first 24 hours and then £10 per 24 hours after
- Not responding to account queries, £20
- Sewer flooding internal, between £150 and £1,000 equal to annual sewerage charges
- Sewer flooding internal, between £150 and £1,000 equal to 50% annual sewerage charges
If you think you are entitled to compensation you have to make a claim within 3 months of the incident.
All companies are required under licence conditions to pay compensation to customers where essential household water supplies are interrupted as a result of restrictions authorised by emergency drought orders. This includes water supplies for purposes such as:
- flushing the toilet
It does not include uses such as watering the garden, car washing or filling a pool. Companies should pay household customers £10 for each day (or part day) that the water supply is interrupted or cut off.
If you do not have a water meter then you will be charged based on the value of your home. If you have a water meter, then your charge is based on your household water usage. Around 40% of homes now have a water meter.
How often is a water meter read?
It is typical for a water meter to be read two times a year. If it cannot be read then your bill will be estimated. If you disagree with your bill then take a meter reading and send it to the firm.
Can I get a water meter removed?
A company will not normally remove a meter after it has installed one, but if you have requested one you can cancel the order before it is installed. The company may move your meter to a more convenient location if you ask it to, but it may charge you for doing so.
Do I have to have a water meter installed?
Your company can choose to install a meter at your property. However, it can only charge you for using the meter if you:
- Use an automatic watering device (such as a garden sprinkler)
- Automatically fill a swimming pool
- Have a power shower or extra large bath
- Use a reverse osmosis water-softening unit
- Are the new occupier of a property (provided it has not already sent you an unmetered bill)
- Live in a water-stressed area where the government has allowed compulsory metering as part of a plan to maintain secure water supplies.
If one or more of the conditions for compulsory metering outlined above applies to you, your company is allowed to install a meter and charge you according to how much water you use.
Suspecting a leak
If your bill is high and you suspect it is because you have a leak on your property, you should report it to your water company.
Supply pipe leaks are the customer’s responsibility. Your company will normally help you find and fix the leak for free, or at a subsidised cost, if it is the first time you have reported a leak. Subject to certain conditions, the company is also required to reduce your bill to take account of the extra water you have used because of a supply-pipe leak.
Issues paying the bill
Every company offers the ‘WaterSure’ tariff. This caps the bills for certain metered household customers at the average household bill for their area. WaterSure is the name given to the vulnerable groups tariff, which was introduced in England by government regulations in April 2000. The companies operating in Wales offer similar tariffs on a voluntary basis.
Water quality issues
If you have concerns over water quality issues, you can contact the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) on 0300 068 6400.
If your issue is with your local environment then the main contact is the Environment Agency, you can phone the Environment Agency on 03708 506 506.
If your issue is not resolved
If your Water Company in England and Wales cannot resolve your issue then you have the right to escalate your case to the Consumer Council for Water. The Consumer Council for Water is an independent organisation that represents consumers’ interests. Any household or non-household customer of a water and sewerage or water only company can complain to Consumer Council. It has powers to investigate most of the complaints you may have about your company’s services. You can find more information about Consumer Council on its website, www.ccwater.org.uk.
If you are not satisfied
If you are not satisfied with the response from the Consumer Council for Water then you can ask to have your case appealed.
The role of Ofwat
Ofwat will deal with certain customer complaints but your case has to have been responded to by your water company and must remain unresolved before the CCW will look at it. The issues that they will handle include:
- Laying and maintaining pipes on private land
- Anti-competitive behaviour
- Breaking of licence conditions
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