Earlier this week, some SSE customers found their smart meters were overestimating their bills by up to £33,000 for a day’s power. Thousands is laughable, but would you notice if you were overcharged by a few pounds here and there?
When I started to rent a new flat early last year, I went through the usual process of setting up new direct debits and payments for utilities.
Council tax was dizzingly cheaper in this London borough than it had been in my last, energy seemed reasonable enough, and broadband offered a great deal through a ‘refer a friend’ promotion.
But establishing our water bill didn’t run so smoothly.
High water rates
When we moved in, we got sent a water bill for £552 for the year.
This struck us as higher than normal, but we weren’t immediately confident it was incorrect.
We were doing a bit of digging into what we had paid in other rented accommodation to make sure when, shortly after we got the first bill, a second arrived through our letter box.
That stated that our bill was £630.24 for the year.
We called the next day to query what was going on.
The water company conceded that this was quite a lot of water. Turns out it was being measured at 15 times more than a six-person household!
For the amount water used, the water company said there was either a fault somewhere its side or a sizeable leak.
It added that someone in our block of flats would have also reported a leak that size by now and that it had actually tried to contact the previous tenant of our flat, to no avail.
Solving the riddle
We arranged to have a technician visit the property to investigate and, in the meantime, started paying £46 per month for the £552 per year bill.
Our water meter is located on the high street, together with the meter of the flat above, and an Italian café.
Upon inspection (we had to turn the taps on and off in the flat several times while the technician observed the meters), it transpired what had happened: we’d been paying our water bill for the café and they’d been paying ours.
The technician took out a marker pen and wrote down the flat numbers on each of the pipes, leaving the café’s free, so that the mistake couldn’t be made again.
Eventually, we got a revised bill for our flat of £225, in nine £25 monthly payments.
And, because we’d already paid £92 and have a goodwill gesture of £50 on our account for the inconvenience, we’re currently £66.67 in credit.
As the technology to record our utilities use gets smarter, would you have the confidence to challenge it if you thought it was wrong?
Of course, the thousands of pounds’ worth of energy that some SSE customers were estimated as using is so clearly an error. But what about if it’s between a few pounds and, say, £30? Would you notice?
Have you ever challenged a utilities bill? What happened?