×

COVID-19 update

Our office is currently not open to visitors. We are responding to emails; however, due to the impact on our staffing resources, our response times will be affected.  From Monday 25 May 2020, we will also be operating a limited telephone service.  Our Scottish Welfare Fund review service is still available by telephone as normal.  Please read our information for customers and organisations

Decision Report 201800853

  • Case ref:
    201800853
  • Date:
    April 2019
  • Body:
    Clear Business Water
  • Sector:
    Water
  • Outcome:
    Upheld, recommendations
  • Subject:
    policy / administration

Summary

Mr C complained that Clear Business Water unreasonably charged him for water services for his business. Mr C's company trades from two units (Unit 1 and Unit  2) and had been paying another water service provider for both units. A number of years later, Unit 2 was allocated by Scottish Water to Aimera as a 'gap site' (a non domestic property that is connected to the Scottish Water Network and is yet to be registered. This means that although it is connected to the water system, the site has never been billed by a provider, as there are no records held for the property). Aimera contacted Mr C several years ago with regards to billing but Mr C explained that he was already paying another provider for both sites.

Mr C heard nothing more for nearly two years, when he received correspondence from Aimera regarding unpaid water charges. Clear Business took control of Aimera later that year and continued correspondence with Mr C in relation to the water charges. We found that Mr C's invoices from his current water provider were confusing as they mentioned both units but in fact they were only providing a service for Unit 1. Although this was not the fault of Clear Business Water's, we found that their communication with Mr C had been inconsistent and confusing. Mr C did not receive any correspondence for nearly two years and he did not find out the basis of his liability for Unit 2's water charges until Clear Business responded to his complaint.

We found that Clear Business failed to provide a reasonable explanation of the liability for water charges and we upheld Mr C's complaint. However, we considered that Mr C had notice he was liable for services for Unit 2 when he was contacted by Aimera about unpaid water charges and that it was reasonable for Clear Business to invoice from this date onwards. Any sums owed before that date, we recommended be written off.

Recommendations

What we asked the organisation to do in this case:

  • Apologise to Mr C for the inconsistent and confusing communications and failure to clarify the position with respect to the liability for charges on Unit  2. The apology should meet the standards set out in the SPSO guidelines on apology available at www.spso.org.uk/leaflets-and-guidance.
  • Write off the sums owed for consumption up to the date that Aimera contacted Mr C and waive any interest and payment rejection charges relating to that period. Offer a payment plan for the remaining outstanding sums.

What we said should change to put things right in future:

  • Communication with customers should be clear and easy to understand.

We have asked the organisation to provide us with evidence that they have implemented the recommendations we have made on this case by the deadline we set.

Updated: April 17, 2019