SA Water's creative billing

It should be noted here that you are reading about a magician…I have used 6 Sydney Harbour’s full of water with the water turned off …apart from having 2-3 horses here for 7 months. They used (unpaid!) 16KL

In August 2013 we had a storm in SA during which my water stopped running. I did not check why the water had gone off that night as we know what can happen to older women who go wandering out to check meters which suddenly go off late at night. Next am when the water was still off, I went down the paddocks to find the meter still running, slowly, (as it is only turned on 1/4 of a turn because of a pump down the road). Turned it off and it remained thus until late December (end of study semester).Found that a tree had fallen onto the water line.
Called SA Water who advised me that I would be given a discount on the cost of the leaked water if I provided them with the details and numbers on the products used to repair the break. Initial cost of leak was just over $200. Ho, ho, ho!
Repaired the leak in December but by then one of the 1970’s kitchen taps had begun to leak because the little white plastic multi sided widget which connects the washer spindle to the handle had worn smooth with age. They are no longer available.
The water use during this time and subsequently, claimed by SA Water was incredible and I called them repeatedly to state that I had not used any water. A new meter was finally installed and it proved my claim. Accounts were not re adjusted. They use inferior meters, probably from guess where… which, after a large amount of water has gone through them, register a cup of water as a swimming pool of water. Thus the problem.
Water to the house has not been turned on since the leak. Water was available to one outside tap and was only used very sparingly to sprinkle 3 retiree chooks’ shade cloth a few times a day during the summer heat for two years. I used rainwater for everything else. I turned the meter off 18 months ago.

SA Water refused to review their bills even with numerous requests. They failed to read emails with similar requests.
Consumer Affairs was going to sort it all out for me 12 months ago. Nothing has happened and I am now being taken to court to pay over $1700! Is there nothing one can do to stop these rip-offs?
I have to avoid the snakes as I collect rainwater from a tank, in buckets, to bring into my house.
I see that their meter reader has broken one of the fence wires so he can get at the meter. It did not do the ride-on mower any good when it recently became tangled in the blades!
Any suggestions, please?
Thank you. Marloo

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I am very sorry to hear about your predicament Marloo2. I think most of us have have scrapes with Ultility suppliers in the past. Given however you have received a summons this is particularly more serious that most would have experienced. My immediate thought is to engage a solicitor and take them through the issue from start to finish, if only to get an expert opinion on you position and probability of success or otherwise. I don’t know about SA law but in VIC if it is a civil matter there is a mediation session at court before the case becomes before a magistrate. Generally the issue can be resolved here. I know this is a cost you won’t want to bear but unless you are confident of representing yousrlf you need a lawyer on your side.

Hi Albie. Thank you for your reply and good advice. I have thought I would need a lawyer even though the case is fairly obvious and I have kept records of the phone calls and emails to SA Water. There is so much evidence against them, I am, quite frankly, astonished that they are still blindly pursuing it. One ‘small’ thing is that their meter reader had a default setting for my readings, so if it was too hot, cold, wet or he just could not be bothered, that reading would be 27KL which was hard to prove incorrect because they could argue about the previous reading but when the new meter was installed, possibly without his knowledge, the real reading of 2KL rather proved his dishonesty. I know about the faults with meters after a lot of water has gone through them because in the late 90s, I suddenly received an excess (quarterly) account for >$400! I called SA W. and eventually they agreed to check the meter and found it faulty. Worked out some years later that
the chap next door had found the connection between the two properties, installed a gate tap, turned off his water and used mine to fill up his underground tanks, water his fern house 24/7 and everything else for over a decade. ’ My’ usage was enormous…until I cut off the branch into his property once I could move my chooks… things settled down until the storm. Things happen when one commutes to the city for work.
Thank you again, it helps to just talk to someone who does not have a vested interest in the situation. Marloo.

@marloo2 best of luck with the dispute. If you do choose to engage a lawyer then you should get a reasonable ides of whether they are just trying to bully you into payment or whether, in fact, they believe under your contract they have legitimate case. Hopefully you’ll come out on top!

Hi Albie. Thank you! Fingers crossed, honesty will prevail. I have never not paid any bill so surely that should be in my favour. SA Water have not the best of reputations and this will not help it. They once charged a property around here $10,000 for excess water and although there was a meter, it was not connected to anything. Difficult to use any water without a connection. Another magician!

Hi @marloo2,

Sorry to hear about your troubles with SA Water, it’s a shame it has gone this far. You may benefit from contacting your local free legal advice centre for some personalised help.

In general (and for other readers), it sounds you have already approached Consumer Affairs and the ombudsmen service. Even though it’s been unsuccessful, it’s probably still worth following up with them again if they have promised a resolution that hasn’t been achieved. We have some templates for making a complaint here that might help, and it’s a good idea to know your rights.

Finally, you might like to take up the issue with your local MP, which we’ve covered in this guide. Hope this helps and please keep us updated if possible!

Hi @marloo2 just wondering how things were going. Any feedback from the legal eagles.

Hi Albie,
Thank you for your interest.
I am not having much luck at the moment. The L Es’ age old rituals dictate that everything has to be signed and dated on every single page and my whizz bang printer has given up the ghost. I cannot print out, sign and then put back onto the computer and send them anything. I tried to send unsigned forms with an included hand written note, duly dated and signed, stating that I am indeed the author of the pages included with the email but that was also unacceptable.
Today I thought ,because the problem seems to be with the connection between the printer and the computer, that I finally had worked out the solution. Clever clogs! I put the forms onto a USB stick and tried to print it out and so sign it and rescan it onto said stick, then to the computer and then email it. Wrong! The printer, which is shortly to leave this world, will print only the first item which is one of the water accounts I have previously scanned onto the stick
.HP help sites and printer- and- scanner doctor programs are no help at all.
I have no idea what to do next. Perhaps a fresh stick with only the forms on it could help…
There is no one in this town who could help and with the temperatures about to rise to fire danger levels, I am not going to drive to the city.
What a great way to spend the festive season! Hope you had an enjoyable season.

@marloo2 The festive season was really enjoyable. Sorry you had so many problems. One thing you might try is turning the printer power off and removing the cable between the printer and computer for about 30 secs. This will make the printer “forget” any spooled print jobs. You can also google how to reset your printer model. Failing that if you can get to a library with the USB stick, they might be able to help out. Good luck! PS. I hate it when companies try to sue people!

Hi Albie,
Thank you, tried it but no luck thus far. I deleted the scans of the SAW accounts but the printer just continued to print the first account, even after your suggestion and the cleaned up stick.! There must be some sort of internal memory in the printer but I cannot find it.
I see that Big W has printers on sale for$19 (!)… but there is not a store for about 50kms.
I don’t suppose that it helps that my computer has been hacked from the time of the first contact of the screeching Asian woman from the collection agency. If SAW feel the need to throw their weight around with collection agencies to recoup fake bills then at least they should use Aussies who are less likely to sell personal details of clients to overseas interests. I now have daily offers of cheap loans, credit cards and debt reduction info. Not Good! Thank you. Marloo.

Hi Albie, Wheeeee! After being threatened with a very nasty and permanent demise, the printer suddenly remembered how to work! I had unplugged it again, for ages whilst I found a new SanDisk flash drive and went through all of the info stored on it, crossed everything, and away it went! Accepted the scans, somehow convinced the re plugged in printer to print them, re scan the signed and dated pages and send them to the stick again. I have attached them to the email, without the 'too dangerous to send by email (!) ’ SAW accounts, scribed an email and sent them. Thank you so much for your help!
I hope the magistrate will see the truth of the matter and sort out SAW. Perhaps they should pay compensation for all of the stress and anxiety they have caused me over the past 4 1/2 years, especially whilst I was trying to complete my Uni studies. Not holding my breath on that one! Will let you know about progress.
Thank you again!

Hi @ Marloo2 it was my pleasure:)

Hi Albie,
Well, after all of that work and worry trying to get the printer working, it was all just a waste of time.
I went into the court room, after waiting two hours, without caffeine replenishment facilities and having to move my car hourly in 34C heat, to do battle with SAW. I was told that told that I was there to be helped sort out how I was going to manage to pay the money.
I asked where the SAW people were and was smilingly informed that since I had not bothered to submit my defence, I had no option but to pay. Politely advised them that I did not require help sorting out my finances and that I had in fact submitted my defence papers before the due date after picking brains to get my printer working again, (thank you again).

Fortunately I had brought two copies of all of the emails to and from the courts and the submitted signed ‘defence’ papers.
Apparently the less than efficient fellow at the magistrates’ court had simply forgotten to enter said papers into the system. They knew the chap and mumbled something about having difficulties with communications with the city court system. Now my suspicious little mind is thinking about the proximity of the two addresses in a square in Adelaide.
I hope they sort this fellow out and that it is not left to me to have a little chat with him…

Back for another dose on 19th May.
Not at all impressed!
It just is not good enough! If these people cannot get it right, what hope do the rest of us have to do so? No wonder all stripes of the government are making such a mess of governing.

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