Fight for rebate over £1,000 drainage bill

C130293-1 Chi Mark Chapman  phot kate''Water or money down the drain? - Mark Chapman who is disputing a bill from Southern Water.Photograph by Kate Shemilt.C130293-1
C130293-1 Chi Mark Chapman phot kate''Water or money down the drain? - Mark Chapman who is disputing a bill from Southern Water.Photograph by Kate Shemilt.C130293-1

A HUNSTON resident is fighting back against a water company for charging for a service it ‘doesn’t even provide’.

Southern Water has charged Mark Chapman for surface water drainage despite the fact the water which comes off the roof is dealt with by a soakaway, not the sewerage system.

Mark, who lives in Foxbridge Drive, has been over-billed since 2001 and is owed nearly £1,000. Southern Water has repaid him £110, a rebate which only dates back only four years.

“To have wrongly charged residents here for over a decade and then only repay a couple of years’ rebate is nothing less than theft,” he said.

“They have stolen our money and now are refusing to give it back. If I did that I would be arrested and up before a court in no time. How can a major organisation like Southern Water effectively steal from its customers. What they are doing is wrong and they must give the money back to those it has taken it from.”

A spokesman for Southern Water said: “At the time of privatisation in 1989, water and sewerage companies were sold with poorly-kept records of the water and sewerage infrastructures. The records did not show which properties were connected to the sewer system for surface water drainage and which go into a soakaway.

“Water companies have maps of the sewers they own, but those maps do not show private drainage. We have to rely on our customers letting us know if they are entitled to a rebate, which is backdated for the year.

“It is our policy to refund all properties in a road where a customer has proven they are entitled to a rebate and we will be refunding charges to all customers in Foxbridge Drive. This refund will cover charges back to 2008.”

An Ofwat spokesman said: “There is no legal obligation for companies to backdate any rebate of charges beyond the current charging year.”

However, the watchdog said there was ‘no reason why companies should not pay a rebate for a longer period, as many other water companies do so voluntarily when customers have clear evidence they have been overcharged for longer’.