Water meters. Not all they’re cracked up to be?
Water meters are, in theory, a sound idea. If you pay for what you use, how can that be wrong? Apparently it can, with a third of people who have switched to water meters wishing they hadn’t.
A poll by money.co.uk found that, not only were a third regretting their decision, only 42% of switchers actually saved money by switching, leaving the logical conclusion that 58% of people are paying more with a meter. Meters are, of course, not compulsory, unless of course you live in a house built after 1990, when installation of water meters in new houses became compulsory to ease the stress on the water supply.
However, more people might be better of with a meter, but because they only get estimated bills once very six months, many householders don’t actually know whether they are better off or not. And it certainly isn’t conducive to making an informed decision whether to switch back to rateable water bills, which must be done within 12 months of having a water meter, or be stuck with it forever.
The poll has prompted some sorts to call for an inquiry into the national roll-out of water meters, which has accelerated over the past 12 months. Last year the Government suggested to nine of the 24 water companies that they might like to consider compulsory metering for all their customers.
Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, said: "The trend across the country has been towards a ‘one size fits all’ mode of more metering. Yet this data blows wide open the assumption that we will all be better off with a meter.
"Less wealthy families living in smaller homes are being ripped off. We now need Ofwat to audit each water supplier’s customer base to find how many households would be better off on rateable bills, and direct that they should be transferred or have their bills capped at this level."
Money.co.uk said those who lost out were £100 worse off on average and that 30% of water companies failed to provide calculators on their websites to show customers whether they would save money.
But isn’t everyone missing the point? Whether you save or lose money with a water meter is dependent on whether you are using more or less than you are currently being charged for. If you ‘lose’ money all it means is that you are now paying for your own water instead of allowing all the other water rate payers to subsidise you…