Thames Water meter left us with ever-rising bill

We were warned that we were using industrial quantities of water – but then Thames Water told us to do nothing about it, and hit us with a bill

We had a water meter installed towards the end of last year, and a month or so later received a telephone call from Thames Water saying we were using industrial amounts of water. We asked if someone could come out to check, but were told it was best to wait for the bill to arrive as it could be a faulty water meter.

In mid-February we received a bill for more than £1,200, and immediately rang Thames Water and asked for an engineer to come out ASAP. When they eventually turned up in May we were told we had two dripping toilets (inside the toilet at the back), and because it was internal we were liable for the whole amount. We had the toilets fixed the same day and were told to wait another 10 days to see if this had resolved the high usage. It had. Today I received a call from Thames Water to discuss my bill, which must be well above £2,000 by now, and the lady said she could not offer me anything other than a £10 "goodwill" reduction. Frankly I am astonished they can do this after giving us such bad advice and service. JB, Reading, Berks

No wonder people are reluctant to have water meters installed, and your treatment at the hands of Thames Water has been poor, to say the least. To call and warn you that you were using industrial quantities of water but then do nothing about it for several months – then send you an inflated bill – is extraordinary. Its customer services team 0ffering to reduce the bill by £10 was, in your own words, the final insult.

According to the water regulator Ofwat, people switching to a water meter effectively have a 12-month cooling-off period. If you find your bills go up alarmingly you are allowed to go back to paying according to rateable value. However, you are technically responsible for the metered usage up until you notify the water company of this intention. The meter remains on the property, and this option is not open to all – residents in water-scarce areas don't have that right.

That said, Thames Water must bear considerable responsibility for the size of this bill, having failed to take action for several months – a point it has now accepted after we took up the case.

"Given it took us so long, we will wipe off the excess charge on the customer's bill," a spokesman says. "Once we have the latest meter reading we will finalise the sum that needs to be deducted. We are really sorry for the upset this caused. We should have tackled this a lot sooner."

Had Thames Water not done the right thing, we would have advised you to take the case to the ombudsman service for the water industry, the Consumer Council for Water, which exists to help settle such disputes.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at or write to Bachelor & Brignall, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number


Miles Brignall

The GuardianTramp

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