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Thames Water billed us £1,000 for a mystery leak

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We are being pursued by Thames Water over a £1,000 bill which it alleges has accrued in six months. We suspect its recently installed smart meter is at fault, but three recorded-delivery letters and 10 phone calls later, I’ve been unable to get sensible answers. It began with a letter warning us that we were consuming 328 litres an hour, which would cost £5,970 a year. In the 10 years my family of three has lived in the house, annual bills have been about £400. Thames Water agreed to send an inspector who was unable to find a leak inside the property, but who nonetheless left a card stating that the meter indicated a leak.

I hired a leak specialist through Thames Water’s list of recommended plumbers, who concluded there was no leak and questioned whether the meter was to blame. I sent this to Thames Water, but a bill for £1,016 was the only response. Customer services said the meter would be investigated. Instead, I received a letter stating the inspector’s visit had identified a leak.

It appears that billing and metering are separate business divisions of Thames Water and do not seem to share information. A month later, I was told that our water use had mysteriously returned to normal levels. It was agreed that the meter would be changed. The technician discovered that it was producing inflated readings and that it had been incorrectly installed. However, Thames Water continued to blame a leak for our huge bill. Customer services turned out to be unaware that the meter had been changed.
JB, London

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Your plight remains a mystery. Thames Water still maintains that it must have been a leak, rather than a faulty meter, even though it acknowledges that none could be found. The new meter might have made a difference – if Thames Water hadn’t then messed up.

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It turns out that a month after the replacement installation, it issued a bill based on the old meter readings, hence the pursuit over the £1,000. Whether it would have got around to noticing the mistake if I hadn’t waded in is anyone’s guess.

“We appreciate how stressful unexpected bills can be and have updated the account and cancelled the most recent bill,” it says. “We’ll take updated readings to issue a new bill, as well as applying a leak allowance and a one-off payment as a gesture of goodwill to apologise.”

Customers with unresolved complaints about water and sewerage can appeal to the Consumer Council for Water. In Scotland redress is offered by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

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