Could Thames Water owe customers millions of pounds?

In a story showing why it’s always important to read the small print on your bill, Thames Water have been charging £5.53 per bill for draining surface water from your property into their drains.

For example, rainwater.

Thames Water

Thames Water

The thing is, that hardly any modern properties drain into Thames Water sewers. The vast majority drain into soakaways.

£5.53 may seem an inconsequential amount, but charged quarterly it amounts to £22.12, and times by Thames Water Customers, they claim 15 million. This equates to £333.5 million pounds per year that people might not be claiming back.

In Aylesbury Vale’s building inspectors advice, they advise that in order of priorities a soakaway should be the first choice for new builds in transporting rain water away from the property.

Further more, inspectors advice states: Rainwater drainage may only connect to a foul sewer if a soakaway or a watercourse cannot be used and a separate surface water sewer is not available

Thames Water

Thames Water

A statement from Ofwat said: “Ofwat’s charging principles state that we expect companies to offer customers a rebate back to when they could have reasonably have known about the status of the surface water drainage connection.

Thames Water’s charging scheme, which is available on the company’s website (see link here) states –

(5) In cases where the consumer (including those who pay the household assessed charge) has established to the satisfaction of Thames Water that no surface water from connected premises drains to a public sewer, the wastewater charges shall be reduced by the amount shown in the Charges Schedule.

(6) Any rebate will be subject to a maximum six year period, but in the case of properties which became connected premises before 1 April 2001, no rebate will be granted for any period before 1 April 2014.”

The consumer Council for water said: “Where there are new builds companies should be able to check arrangements when connecting but with older properties they don’t have the records so rely on customers applying for the rebate. The companies need to make clear what’s included in bills and that they do offer a rebate etc.

“In 2000 Ofwat issued guidance to companies that they should offer a rebate to customers where all their rainwater drains to a ‘soak-away’ or direct to a water course rather than to the public sewer. Since that time all companies have offered rebates in these circumstances and publicised this through their bills or billing literature.”

Thames Water said: “Prior to 2000 surface water drainage (SWD) was included in our wastewater fixed charges for all properties connected to our sewers, irrespective of the individual SWD arrangements.

“From April 2001, companies rebated SWD charges where there were no surface water connections to the sewer. The responsibility was on the customer to claim the allowance, and it was applicable from the beginning of the billing period or financial year in which the claim was received, whichever was earlier.

“We’re being more proactive this year and so when we receive a new application for a rebate, we’ll contact the other homes in the same postcode and invite the customers to apply. It is still the customer’s responsibility to apply.”

Maybe it’s worth a phone call?