Water companies are charging people with soak-aways too much in Dunmow

Andrew Leeds

Andrew Leeds - Credit: Archant

An angry householder in Dunmow has spoken out about his revelation that he was paying too much for water, and to warn people that they may be doing the same.

Andrew Leeds, 56, of Ongar Road, found out this week that Anglian Water have been charging him to use water services that he didn’t use since 1995 when his house was built, he says.

He is being charged for the treatment of water going into sewers, but because he has a piece of equipment called a soak-away, it isn’t going into those pipes – but is going into the ground instead.

A soak-away is a hole in the ground filled with rubble and stone which drains away surface water, often rain water, instead of directing it into the existing sewers.

For houses built before 2000 water companies have to give back the excess money they received since 2013, even though people may have been paying for the service for longer.

All of the surface water from a property has to go into the soak-away for people to qualify for a rebate.

Each year the amount charged goes up and down, between £50 and £25 – this year Anglian Water are charging £35, Andrew says.

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He said: “It wasn’t made clear, it doesn’t say check your bill. I am wondering how many residents in the area live with a soak-away who don’t know.

“I am furious, if it was PPI then it’s everywhere, there’s a whole hoo-ha, but then the water company does it and nothing. If I can claim PPI that goes back 15 years then why not this as well?”

He said the only reason he was alerted to the problem was because he does a lot of DIY, and knew a soak-away when he saw one.

Mr Leeds is worried other people will not know.

“When they’re trying to sell me something over the phone, say a new meter, then they have the resources and I bet someone would be on the phone then. But they don’t want to contact people they have fraudulently been taking money from.

“Something stinks here and it isn’t my sewer.”

Mr Leeds believes most of the houses around where he lives have a soak-away too – Anglian Water told him that they would now write to everyone in the area to let them know.

An Anglian Water spokesman said: “Customers whose homes are not connected to the surface water drains are entitled to a reduction on their sewerage bill.

“We’ve promoted this through customer letters and leaflets, our web site, and reminders on their bills, where we ask customers to contact us if they think they have a soak-away and are entitled to the rebate.

“This back-date period is the same for all water companies and was set following consultation with the industry regulator, Ofwat.”