Investigation Report 201407663

  • Report no:
  • Date:
    March 2016
  • Body:
    Business Stream
  • Sector:

Mr C complained on behalf of a business that had had an account with Business Stream since 2006.  The average water usage was reasonably consistent but a meter reading taken in April 2010 showed what the meter reader considered to be a disproportionately high reading.  The meter reader contacted Business Stream to alert them to this, and confirmed that there was no evidence of a leak at the meter.  In May 2010, the business received a bill from Business Stream which they queried as they considered it to be very high.  The business believed a leak had been caused by Scottish Water carrying out work in the area, but Scottish Water had no record of work being carried out.  Although a Business Stream complaints response to Mr C in 2015 referred to a repair having taken place in May 2010, the only activity recorded on the date in question was the new meter reading.

Mr C said that Business Stream's failure to make his business aware that a leak had been repaired meant that they were unable to apply for a burst allowance (a burst allowance is made in cases where a leak has been caused by Scottish Water's actions or on pipework for which they are responsible or in cases where the customer can show that the leaked water did not drain into Scottish Water's sewers).  However, I found that there was sufficient evidence that the business were aware of a leak in May 2010 and Business Stream had given them information about how to apply for a burst allowance in August of that year.  Business Stream had also applied to Scottish Water for a burst allowance for the business (which was refused as Scottish Water had no record of a leak).  I therefore did not uphold this complaint.

I did, however, find that Business Stream’s failure to take two meter readings in the 12 months before the high bill was issued meant that it was a full 12 months until the high usage could be identified.  Business Stream’s metering policy acknowledges the water industry market code which requires that there are two meter readings taken a year.  Business Stream noted in their response to us that they had made repeated attempts to read the meter but were unable to access it.  Whilst problems in accessing the business’s meter during other time periods was recorded by Business Stream, I found no evidence that the business were contacted by Business Stream about meter access during the period in question.

Although I did not uphold this aspect of the complaint, I did make some recommendations which reflect the significant injustice that has arisen as a result of the failure by Business Stream to take the required number of meter readings.

The events in question happened in 2010, and the business and Mr C had raised their concerns with Business Stream over a number of years.  These appear to have been largely treated as enquiries or billing disputes until October 2014, when a complaint was logged by Business Stream.  Business Stream acknowledged the complaint on the day it arrived, but it took until March 2015 to receive a response.  Not only did I find that the complaints process could have been started earlier to reduce some of the back and forth correspondence, I also found that once Business Stream treated Mr C’s concerns as a formal complaint, they failed to meet the targets that they set for themselves.  I was critical of Business Stream’s handling of this matter, so I upheld this aspect of Mr C’s complaint and made some recommendations.

Redress and recommendations
The Ombudsman recommends that Business Stream:

  • credit the Business with an amount equivalent to six months of the inflated water usage and waste water charges over the period of the spike in usage;
  • take steps, in line with their metering policy to ensure two actual reads are submitted to the CMA each year;
  • apologise to Mr C for their poor handling of his complaint; and
  • remind their complaints handling staff of the importance of keeping complainants updated throughout the course of their investigations.

Updated: December 11, 2018