Southwark Council announces plans to refund up to 48,000 tenants for £28.6m of overcharged Thames Water bills 

News Desk (30 June, 2016) Housing

Current and former tenants who paid water bills between 2001 and 2013 will be entitled to 22.1 per cent of the total bills they paid

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Southwark Council has confirmed it will begin refunding up to 48,000 tenants it overcharged for water bills between 2001 and 2013 from July 11.

A high court judge ruled in April that a long-standing deal whereby the council were collecting water bills from council tenants on behalf of Thames Water, had been illegal.

The judge, Mr Justice Newey, said the council had contradicted the ‘2006 Water Resale Order’ by effectively “bought and re-sold water and sewage services” while making a profit.

The legal challenge, brought by Camberwell resident Kim Jones, has forced the council and Thames Water to terminate their relationship. The authority will now find £28.6m to refund more than 40,000 past and present tenants who were billed for water services between April 1, 2001, and July 28, 2013.

A spokeswoman for the council has told the News that all current council tenants in the borough would receive letters next week that explained the process for refunds.

From July 11, all current tenants will start to receive cheques in the post that are credited to their accounts.

Although all current tenants should expect to receive their refunds from July 11, all past tenants will have until March 2020 to apply using the existing rent-refund process.

The refunds will be calculated as 22.1 per cent of the tenant’s total water charges between April 1, 2001, and July 28, 2013, minus a 1.5p per-day administration fee, plus interest.

Any tenants in arrears will have the amount they owe deducted from their refund, and the net total will be paid to tenants in a cheque (with a £10 minimum – anything less than that will be left on the account). Approximately 80 per cent of tenants will receive a cheque.

The council has also said that a specific team of its officers had been selected to focus on the refunding process. Any past or present tenants will be able to contact the council using the email address waterrefunds@southwark.gov.uk, or phone the customer services helpdesk on 020 7525 5000.

The council will work with Tenants Management Organisations through the borough to also identify former tenants who are eligible for refunds. The council will also publicise information for former tenants on our website, in Southwark Life and via other channels. In all cases interest will be added, up to the date of payment.

Rob Kenyon says:

This is great news and Kim Jones deserves some sort of award.
This arrangement has been dodgy from the start.
Firstly for making it possible to be evicted for not paying water rates. And secondly for removing any possible consumer pressure on the provider, resulting in poor service.
This ruling will come too late for those already evicted due to this anomaly. And while LBS has been rightly convicted, it is surely incredible that Thames Water were unaware of the figures involved, and the difference between their rates and those charged by LBS.

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