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Water Industry Act 1999

English and Welsh Provisions

Charging by reference to volume

9.The main alternative basis of charging for domestic customers for water and sewerage services is by reference to the volume of water used, as measured by a water meter. The present situation, which will continue until the relevant provisions of this Act come into force and charges schemes become subject to them, is as follows. Water companies are able, at their discretion, to require customers to move to a charge based on the volume of water supplied. Customers do not have a statutory right either to move to a measured charge or to remain on an unmeasured charge. Where water meters are fitted at the company’s request, they have to be installed free of charge. Where a company agrees to install a meter at a customer’s request, the company is not obliged to do that free of charge. Some water companies offer customers the option of a free meter. Other companies do not.

10.A relatively small but growing number of households in England and Wales (an expected average of 18% across the country by the end of the 1999-2000 charging year) pay on the basis of a measured charge, some through choice, some where a water company has required it (for example, where a household uses a garden sprinkler) or because the household has moved into a house with a meter. Since no property built since 1990 will have a rateable value, most new houses have meters. Some people’s water bills will be lower if they pay on a measured basis, but some people will have higher bills than if they were paying on an unmeasured basis. Concern has been expressed that this could bring hardship to those with high water use who cannot reduce their demand, or who can do so only at the expense of health or hygiene. Two examples of these groups, mentioned in the Government’s consultation document on water charging, are those with medical conditions requiring higher than usual water use and large families on low incomes.

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