Hidden costs of water 'could scupper public support for meters'

PEOPLE would be less keen on water meters for measuring their bills if they knew the full cost and how much water was lost through leakage, the National Consumer Council said yesterday.

Surveys carried out for the consumer watchdog Ofwat - which supports the introduction of meters - have suggested widespread public support.

But the surveys were misleading, Robin Simpson, the council's deputy director, claims in the latest issue of Consumer Voice magazine.

'In none of the surveys were the respondents told that the average leakage is about 25 per cent of the water supplied by the water companies.'

Some 64 per cent of 290,000 respondents to a survey sent to 18 million households with their water bills said they would prefer metering.

Mr Simpson says: 'The questionnaire gave a range of increases in water charges due to metering, with an increase of pounds 29 a year at the top end. Yet there are well-documented cases where water charges have increased by more than that after meters were installed.

'The NCC believes that investing money in leakage controls would be far more beneficial to both consumers and to the environment than an expensive and potentially socially harmful programme of meter installation.'

By 2000, the rateable value system on which water bills are now based must be phased out and water companies face three options - meters, a flat licence fee and a bill based on property type.

An Ofwat spokeswoman said yesterday that metering was the fairest option and would reduce demand for water.

Customers would directly foot the water bill for leakages only if the leaks were in their own supply pipes.

And if a customers suddenly received a very heavy bill - indicating a leak - provided that he or she agreed to have the leak repaired within a reasonable time, the water company would charge only its usual bill, she said.

But Ann Taylor, the shadow environmental protection minister, shared the doubts of the National Consumer Council. She said: 'Customers who are not fully informed of all the facts may view a water meter as a way of cutting down on the huge water bills we have come to expect since privatisation.

'However, often the hidden cost of water metering means that the customer is no better off - sometimes they may even be a lot worse off.'

Ofwat has called for powers to compel water companies to compensate customers for poor service.

The watchdog will tell ministers that customers need greater protection from water companies, and urge them to give Ofwat legal powers to direct companies to pay compensation. Ofwat's regional customer service committees are concerned that water companies can ignore decisions from the director general that do not suit them.

They also believe the present compensation scheme fails to cover many complaints adequately, or at all.

Jim Gardner, Northumbria customer service committee chairman, said: 'We want customers to receive the quality of service and value for money that would be expected from companies operating in a competitive market.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick