Watercare. Is your bill accurate?

 

On 1 July 2012 Watercare moved to a monthly billing system. They claimed this was in response to consumer demand but out of hundreds of Watercare consumers I have spoken to, not one was in favour of this system. An added irony is that actual readings are only done every second month. The estimates have turned out to be a shambles. For many landlords the whole process has turned into an accounting nightmare.

 

At the risk of boring you I will quickly summarise my own experience on my rental property in Henderson:

1 Nov 2011     Actual Reading        7323

4 Jul 2012       Actual Reading        7392

Actual consumption for the 247 days (8 months) from 1/11/11 to 4/7/12

                                                       = 69 kl

                                                       = 279 litres per day

2 Aug 2012     Estimated reading    7421

Estimated consumption for the 29 days from 4/7/12 to 2/8/12

                                                       = 29kl

                                                       = 1000 litres per day

Clearly the estimate was way out of kilter. I have since spoken to a number of other people who received assessments with this magic figure of 1000 litres per day. Now, don’t call me a cynic yet but what a marvellous way of receiving interest free loans from ratepayers – by overbilling them on estimates!

8 Aug 2012     I had no luck trying to discuss the matter with the call centre.

9 Aug 2012     I sent 8 specific questions to Michael Graham, Revenue Manager.

                        I received a reply from Daniel Wrigley, Communications Advisor,

                        that avoided giving specific answers and said “we will endeavour to

                        ensure this issue is not repeated in the future.”

10 Aug 2012   The Herald reported “A Watercare spokesman said the billing team’s

                        estimate relied on a previous month’s reading by a meter reader, who

                        could not see all the figures properly because of condensation in the

                        meter.”

But, hang on, the previous month was July. An accurate reading was made on 4 July as recorded in the previous bill. What did condensation on the meter have to do with an estimated reading?

13 Aug 2012    I pressed for specific answers but was informed by Daniel Wrigley

                         they had taken legal advice on the matter.

23 Aug 2012    Russell McVeagh had a threatening letter delivered to me by courier.

                         It made a number of allegations and included the statement “Any

                         further intimidation of Watercare staff by either telephone or writing

                         will require the matter to be referred to the Police.”

So this is how a monopoly like Watercare handles customer complaints. I wonder

what that cost in legal fees? Russell McVeagh then sent two more couriers attempting to get the letter back.

24 Aug 2012    Russell McVeagh sent me another letter claiming “Mr Ford is satisfied

                         that his staff have acted in an appropriate manner.”

28 Aug 2012    Sally Fitzgerald, Partner Russell McVeagh withdrew her allegations

                         against me and said “I am happy to offer you my apology in respect of

                         recent correspondence.”

6 Sep 2012       I sent a letter of complaint to Mark Ford, CEO of Watercare.

18 Sep 2012     Debbie Hickson, Mark Ford’s PA advised me the matter had been

                         delegated to David Hawkins.

19 Sep 2012     Having previously been asked to produce communications that

                         substantiated her allegations, Sally Fitzgerald wrote “Watercare takes

                         seriously its obligations to act as a good employer and operates in an

                         environment, where staff are encouraged to speak openly with their

                         colleagues without necessarily having to resort to more formal

                         procedures.”

Hmmmm! Didn’t I read recently about some senior finance company executives operating in such a manner?How convenient!

8 Nov 2012      Once again I had occasion to ring Watercare because of inaccurate

                         billing. Details are provided on my previous post, entitled “Water

                         Bills Up or Balls Up?” I sent two questions to Mathew Telfer.

9 Nov 2012      Mathew Telfer advised he would respond within 5 working days.

16 Nov 2012    Having received no response from Mathew Telfer I complained to

                         Mark Ford.

19 Nov 2012    Mathew Telfer advised “The cause of the inaccurate (low) invoice on

                         7 November was due to a high manually estimated reading in

                         October. This reading was manually estimated because of a lack (of)

                         suitable actual readings for our automated estimation tool. There was a

                         delay in identifying the auto estimation had been unsuccessful on the

                         account. This resulted in the period between invoices increasing to 41

                         days instead of the standard 29 or 30 days. The daily usage for the

                         property was incorrectly calculated resulting in high reading of 16

                         kilolitres (390L) per day) instead of a more accurate estimation of 12

                         kilolitres (300L per day) for the 41 day period.

                         A very small percentage of errors do still occur. I am confident that

                         we have now resolved the issues on this account. I will be working

                         with the Revenue Manager, Michael Graham and personally

                         reviewing your future invoices to ensure that they have been correctly

                         calculated. 

Well, I guess that’s a step up from the “endeavour to ensure” on 9 August!

 

I’ll keep you posted if there are errors when my next bill arrives.

Meanwhile if any of you wish to make a comment on your billing experiences from Watercare I would love to hear from you. Please make a comment under Comments below this post.

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1 Response to Watercare. Is your bill accurate?

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