Why did my Thames Water bill drain my bank account?

The meter they installed was charging us for the equivalent of seven households

In May last year I asked Thames Water to fit a water meter at our property, which should have saved us money with lower bills.

But when our first metered bill arrived, it was for £200 rather than the £25 we had previously paid each month. I spoke to Thames, which said it would investigate.

By October, and six engineer-visit appointments later, Thames discovered it had fitted the meter to the pipe supplying seven properties, rather than just ours. The bill was put on hold.

Despite tens of long phone calls, I heard no more. I assumed it had been cancelled due to the errors.

Fast forward to March this year, after we had moved out of the property, I receive a bill for £1,880. Thames Water, again, admitted this was an error and the money wouldn’t be taken.

It also promised to call me back, ahead of a long-planned holiday to Vietnam. I had no phone call, and went on holiday.

Guess what? I have just discovered it has taken the £1,880 from my account, plunging me into my overdraft, and taking away all my holiday money.
SA, London

This is a poor advert for Thames Water’s administrative machine – and not untypical if our postbag is representative. We had another letter this week from a reader who had a £192 bill after their monthly direct debits had mysteriously not been taken by the company, despite a letter saying it was all set up.

In fairness to Thames, it quickly got on this case and resolved this matter.

“We’re sorry it has taken so long to sort out this billing error. As a gesture of goodwill, we’ve now cancelled this bill and refunded any credit on the account. This means SA will not have to pay for any water for the year he was living at this property,” it says.

That will be worth a few hundred pounds which should cover any overdraft and other charges you incurred as a result of the £1,880 being taken from your account.

Other readers note: the direct debit guarantee allows you to go to your bank and ask for a large unexpected payment to be reversed – not easy, of course, if you are on holiday in Vietnam.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at consumer.champions@theguardian.com or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number. Submission and publication of all letters is subject to terms and conditions


Miles Brignall

The GuardianTramp

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