A customer was concerned that high water pressure led to leaks and consequent high bills (May 2017)

High bills
Case Number 2016/24719
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Over two years, Mrs C had ongoing queries about the water bills she received from her water corporation. Concerned that there was a leak, she engaged a plumber. The plumber advised that because the water meter did not have a water pressure controlling device, together with high pressure flows in the area, pipes can burst, leak water and lead to high bills. The plumber said that it was the water corporation’s responsibility to install the water pressure controlling device. The plumber since installed such a device and her bills reduced. She was disappointed that the water corporation did not advise her about the device when she raised high bill concerns over the last two years, and wanted reimbursement for the unnecessarily high bills she paid. The water corporation said that the water infrastructure at her property met all regulations, her meter was operating correctly and it offered her an account credit of $838. Mrs C was unhappy with this offer and contacted EWOV for assistance.

EWOV raised an Assisted Referral. Due to the complexity of the complaint, the water corporation asked for it to be escalated to an Investigation.

The Investigation

During the water corporation’s investigation of Mrs C’s high bill concerns, it was found that she had a faulty hot water service that was causing increased water use and high bills. In accordance with its undetected leak allowance policy, the water corporation applied a $438 account credit. Further, it offered $400 towards the high bills – so $838 in total. The customer thought this offer was insufficient. She said that the water corporation should have installed a water pressure controlling device (under new building standards) to control the high water pressure flowing into the property and its consequence damage. Therefore it is solely responsible for the high bills.

Under the water corporation’s Charter it advised it does not guarantee water pressure at a property – only water availability. Mrs C’s plumber recorded the water pressure at 790 kPa. This reading was close to the expected system pressure in the area of 800 kPa. While this is on the high side, it was not high enough for the water corporation to install a water pressure controlling device.  It would only install one if pressure was over 1,000 kPa. Below this pressure, it’s the customer’s responsibility to install their own pressure reducing device.

The water corporation also arranged for the water meter to be laboratory tested, free of charge. The meter was found to be operating well within the Australian Standards.  The meter was also mechanically inspected and no faults were found.

During the investigation the customer performed a water leak test that showed there were no ongoing leak issues.

EWOV reviewed all of Mrs C’s bills, contact notes, account reconciliation, the plumber’s reports, the water corporation’s undetected leak policy, the meter test report, tariff rates, and all meter reads. EWOV suggested that the water corporation could provide Mrs C with a free home water audit to help her understand her water use.

The Outcome

The water corporation apologised for any inconvenience. Mrs C accepted the water corporation’s offer of a free home water audit and $838 account credit to resolve the complaint. Her account balance was $466 and she was given a month’s payment extension at her request. She was also given a direct contact at the water corporation.

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