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My water bill rose 800% What do I do?

CONNEXION received a “flood” of emails offering suggestions after a reader queried an unexplained water bill eight times the usual size.

Dordogne resident Margaret Green, from Piégut-Pluvier, said a plumber had found no leaks and she had had no recent work done apart from fitting a pressure-reducing device next to the meter. She added: “Since receiving the bill I have tried to explain the situation, with no success apart from a 25% reduction of the amount as a gesture.

“We have been reading the meter on a regular basis and our plumber has confirmed it is working normally.”

In such situations like this, first check your bills, which should indicate volumes consumed. If they have shot up, and have not changed habits, you need to investigate – we publish some reader suggestions (right).

If there is a leak on your property you may have to pay; otherwise, contest the bill in the following way:

Phone (and/or write to by recorded delivery letter) the water firm to contest the bill and ask for a meter check. Provide proof; such as old bills.

The water supplier will send someone to check the meter. However, if it is working correctly you will be billed. If there is a problem, the meter will be replaced and usually your bill will be reduced to the average level.

Your supplier may also do a check for leaks – if one is found you will be billed for the checks and your complaint rejected (so it is better to get your own checks done beforehand).

In the event of a continuing dispute you must exhaust the firm’s internal complaints procedures and can then apply to the water mediator (or seek help from a consumer body such as CLCV – see www.conso.net).

To go through internal complaints, contact the firm’s customer services department (service clients) and, if necessary, write to a “higher” complaints body (instance de recours supérieure), such as the direction consommateurs (check with the firm).

If the dispute is less than two years old, you can then apply to the mediator, with copies of letters to the firm. See: www.mediation-eau.fr/

The mediator’s office said this suspends any action by the water firm – you cannot be cut off and if it has done so should restore your supply. After three months the mediator will give a written finding, that you and the firm may accept or not. If that fails, the matter must go to court.

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