Thames Water Giveth Crap – as well as taking it away

What follows is a log of my year long fight with Thames Water to stop paying for my neighbours water. A mistake that goes back at least 8 years, probably more like 17!

If you can’t be arsed to read it all (I would not blame you) then please consider two things:

  • Check that the meter you are paying for is indeed the correct one for your property.
  • If you ever have a dispute with Thames Water get the Consumer Council for Water or Ofwat involved, because Thames water don’t appear to be motivated to help you.

Outside my home in the pavement are a pair of Outside Stop Valves (OSVs).  They looks like mini manhole covers and house a stopcock tap and a water meter. One is for my house and the other is for my neighbours. On the 7th February 2012 the OSV closest to my property started leaking, so I filled in Thames Waters online form informing them of the leak. On the 14th Feb a contractor arrived and replaced the meter. Shortly after he had gone it started leaking again. So I sent another email to Thames Water and got a reply from Justin saying it would be addressed shortly.

On the 29th Feb nobody had called to fix the leak so I phoned them and spoke to Alistair to explain the situation, he put me through to Darren in operations, he said someone would attend soon.

March 2nd and still nobody had called so I chased them up and spoke to Darren, again I was assured someone would be round soon to stop the leak.

On March 7th a very nice man called Neil arrived and said the fault was with the meter and it needed replacing. He swapped out the meter in the street, then to make sure the meter was working properly he got me to run a tap. The meter however  did not show any movement. Neil suspected the unit was broken. Then after another replacement unit was installed I ran the tap, again no movement on meter. He then popped the lid off the adjacent OSV, the one closest to my neighbours house. This was showing movement, I stopped the tap and this other meter stopped. Each time I ran a tap this other meter started running. It was now obvious that my house was plumbed in from this meter.
I looked at the serial numbers for both metres and looked at a Thames Water bill I had and the serial number on my bill was for the meter that did not move, ie my neighbours. Neil took some notes and photos and said he would inform his superiors that the meters for out two houses were round the wrong way.

Looking back at bills for the last 8 years the meter for next door appeared on all of them. After speaking to the neighbours they had the serial number for my meter. It looks like these meters have been round the wrong way since the houses were built some 17  years ago. I have been living there for about 8 years and for all this time we had been paying for each others water. I assume whoever lived in the houses before this had also been paying for next doors water usage.

March 8th, I called Customer Services and spoke to Richard about the  mix up and that I did not want to pay them any more money till this has been sorted out. I had lived on my own till that year and there were a couple living next door so I suspected I was paying over the odds. I also followed this phone call up with an email.

On the 14th March I got a reply saying they were ‘carrying out a full review’ and would be in contact in the next 10 working days.

9th July. Yes the 9th of July, 4 months or 82 working days later. I had still not heard a thing so I called customer relations. I first spoke with Dave, who could not find any notes about the two meters being mixed up. He told me that according to his records my internal meter, ie one in my house, was changed on the 14th Feb. I did not have any internal meter changed, mainly because I don’t have an internal meter. After explaining the story again he eventually said that I needed to speak to someone else and then the line went dead. That was 25 minutes of my life I would not get back.
Called back and got through to Charlotte in Operations and told her the story, again. I was then put through to Jessica in Billings.  Went through the story again, she said it  would be investigated.

18th July I received a bill from Thames Water (with my neighbours meter number) asking for full payment and threatening me with a CCJ if I failed to pay. I spoke to Janene to explain that I was fully willing to pay for my water usage, but not my neighbours. She said I should ignore the letter and that a hold had been put on my account pending an investigation. I also enquired again as to when someone would come round to confirm Neils original findings, way back in early March. I was told someone would be in touch in the next 3 days.

20th July, got a call from Tony who wanted to arrange a time to visit but that they would not be able to come round till after the Olympics. He had managed to find all the notes relating to my account and did say that a new bill would be sent out with the correct meter number and costs reflecting my usage.

On the 21st November 2012 I got a letter saying I owed Thames Water £29, again it had the incorrect meter listed on the bill. I was again threatened with court proceedings if I did not pay in the next few days. I spent 55 minutes on the phone explaining the error to another operator at Thames Water. She said someone would be out within 20 days to confirm what meter my house is connected too. This is now November, a full 8 months after the investigation into this error began.

30 Nov 2012 I received  another threatening letter with a  ‘Statement of Intent’ saying I owed £29.97. with the now familiar threat of court proceedings if I did not pay. I called customer services and spoke to Martinique, she said I should ignore the letter and that my account actually had a £58.57 credit on it. This was the first bit of good news, it finally looked like the issue was being addressed.

Unfortunately on 18 Dec 2012 I received a letter saying I owed Thames Water £179.79. The letter went on to say I had an exchanged meter and gave my neighbours old meter serial number. Again I explained to them that my meter has not been replaced, it has been entered on Thames Waters system incorrectly some 17 years ago.

11 Jan 2013 I spoke with Mark to try and get an itemised bill for the last 8 years sent out and explained the error on the meters. He put me on hold. A little later the line went dead. I called back and Spoke with Carol. Explained the story yet again and she said it would be escalated and that someone would contact me in the next 4 days.

At this time I sent a letter to Ofwat and the Consumer Council for Water to see if they could investigate and put pressure on Thames Water to correct their error that has certainly been going on for 8 years of my occupancy and I can only assume was also incorrect for the previous owners going back a further 9 years. I also sent a letter to the MD of Thames Water, Sir Peter Mason.

21 Jan 2013 I got an email saying that the issue had now been investigated and that they agree the meter appearing on my bills was not the meter associated with my house, and the same went for my neighbours. The email also went on to say ‘The new meter which was meant to be for your supply and fitted in error to your neighbours house has not affected your charges’  Again Thames Water had got it wrong; the meter was not changed in error, it was changed because it was leaking for a month from the 7th February 2012 to the 7th March 2012, but this was my neighbours meter, not mine.

In February 2013, a year after this all began, I finally got a bill with the correct meter on it and with an apologetic note offering me £50 off the bill for the inconvenience. I guess that may cover the cost of all my phone calls, but certainly not the time and stress I had been put under for the last year. However I accepted it as I was simply happy to, at last, be paying for the water I use.

At the end of the correspondences from Thames Water is a line saying ‘What we want to achieve: If customers had a choice, they would choose Thames Water.’ Needless to say I would not chose Thames Water if I was given the choice. I have been treated shockingly bad by this company and would be the first to switch suppliers. Unfortunately for me and many others, this is simply not an option. Which may be why they are so bad at customer relations, they know very well that the public has nowhere else to go, why try?

Are you paying for your neighbours water? If you think you are paying over the odds for your water usage I would certainly check to see if the meter you are paying is indeed yours.

Observer Article on paying for your neighbours water

  • 240 million cubic metres of raw sewage were emptied into the Thames between 2001 and 2004.[16]
  • In 2004, Thames Water supplied rust-coloured water to residents of Spencers Wood and Shinfield, nr Reading, Berkshire and was fined £24,000.[17]
  • Between 24 and 29 June 2005 a billion litres of sewage was released into the Thames by Thames Water.[18]
  • In September 2007, 5 km of the River Wandle was polluted. In January 2009, Thames Water pleaded guilty and was “fined £125,000 and ordered to pay £21,335 in clean-up and investigation costs”.[19] In February 2010, on appeal, the fine was found to be “manifestly excessive” and was reduced to £50,000.[20]
  • On 5-8 June 2011, Thames Water released more than 230,000 tonnes of sewage from Mogden Sewage Treatment into the tidal Thames killing 26,000 fish.[21]
  • On 29 October 2011, Thames Water released thousands of tonnes of raw sewage into the River Crane killing thousands of fish. Thames Anglers Conservancy member, Robin Vernon, of Devon Avenue said: “It will take a decade to repair all the damage done by the sewage spill. Everything in there is just dead now.”[22]
  • On December 09, 2011, Thames Water were fined £60,000 after pumping sewage sludge into the Silchester and Foudry Brooks killing up to 20,000 fish.[23]


One Comment

  1. I have the same problem, but I m in the midlands and Severn Trent supply me. I noticed that my water bills are way too high, so I performed an experiment when I was sure that my neighbours weren’t home, and sure enough, the meter that I pay for did not tick over when my taps are running, it’s the meter next to it that tick over, the one that my neighbour pays for. I have contacted Severn Trent, hopefully should be sorted quicker the your case…
    Thanks for sharing

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