The Great H2O Swindle……

15 Oct

PART ONE:  HYPOCRISY……

In an act of extraordinary hypocrisy the ex-Anglian Water boss, Jonson Cox, who is now the Chairman of the industry

ofwat-logoregulator Ofwat, drew attention to the “morally questionable” tax structures that allowed his prior employer to pay just £1.6m in Corporation Tax between 2004 and 2010 whilst he was in charge.  Cox left Anglian Water in 2010 with a payout of £9.5m, an amount that his UK call centre staff would have taken 575 years to earn (before income tax) and in excess of 1500 years for Anglian Water’s overseas staff.

Love Every Penny

Love Every Penny

Anglian Water serves over five million customers from Grimsby in the north to Basildon in the south, and is owned by Canadian and Australian pension and infrastructure funds.  The company’s immediate parent undertaking is Anglian Water Services Overseas Holdings Ltd, a company registered in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven.  The company accounts for Anglian Water Services Overseas Holdings Ltd state that it has no employees and is administered by the UK division of the company; so nothing fishy going on there then.

An Ofwat spokesperson said: “As our chair, Jonson Cox is using his insight into the sector to shine a light on what companies do, and asking challenging questions to ensure that the legitimacy of the sector is maintained in the eyes of customers.”   Customers have seen their bills rise by 64% in the last 10 years whilst their wages have risen by an average of just 28%.  Approximately 30% of water charges are profit compared with just 9% of other utilities.

A spokesman for Anglian Water denied that it engaged in tax avoidance. “Our corporation tax bill is reduced by specific government incentives and deferred, not avoided. This is allowed by the government to encourage long-term investment in infrastructure and jobs.”  One would have assumed that as a water and waste water company the “infrastructure” was an integral part of the business and should not be subject to “Government incentives”.  The so called investment in jobs has seen back office administration moved to India where the staff are paid 1/3 of their UK counterparts.

Obviously, Anglian Water values its’ customer base, even though their customer base has no choice which company supplies it with water.  They also employ customer profiling to identify those who may potentially have difficulty paying and automatically filter them into specially designed and more aggressive debt recovery cycle; all changes introduced whilst the new chairman of Ofwat was at the helm…….

The fact that Jonson Cox is now the Chairman of the regulator is a direct conflict of interests.  Is a man who aggressively sought to maximise profits for shareholders whilst minimising tax liabilities fit to run the industry regulator.  In his new position he should be seeking the best possible deal for hard pressed bill payers whilst balancing a healthy return for the country and the shareholders.  Based on his prior modus operandi I suggest he is ‘not fit for purpose’, that is, of course, dependent upon your stake in the companies he regulates……

PART TWO:  DIRTY TRICKS……

‘THE INSIDER’S GUIDE ON HOW TO BEAT THE SYSTEM……’

Phone calls to Anglian Water Customer Services appear on their bills as 0845 numbers.  This means for the pleasure of making an enquiry you pay 10 pence per minute (more on mobile networks).  For example:  The Customer Service number is 08457 91 91 55.  What they fail to tell you is that almost all of their 0845 numbers work by simply dialling 0800 instead, ie; 0800 91 91 55 gets you through to the same service at no cost.  The same applies to almost all other Anglian Water numbers quoted as 0845……

Stalling tactics are mandatory as with all automated systems.  When you get through and have been offered a choice of options so they can “Help get you through to the right department”, you’ll be asked to say, or enter on your telephone key pad, your 9 digit account number.  DON’T, it doesn’t link to their computer system and the agent will ask for your account number or name and address to enable them to find your account.  All of the Line Managers are perfectly aware that this is the case and no explanation was ever given as to why this was the case.  Personally, I believe it is a delaying tactic to keep you in the queue without hanging up as this is one of the performance measures used by Ofwat to monitor call drop outs……

If you alone in a one bedroom flat you will use a very small amount of water.  Anglian Water will not advise you of this fact, nor will they tell you that you do not have a meter and may be paying on the old Rateable Value system which could be costing you £500 per year.  If you have a meter fitted and go on a low user tariff (Anglian Water call theirs ‘Solow’), this could reduce your bill by £400 per year.  This information is buried in the usual small print or plethora of booklets you receive but they will not proactively seek to help you, so ask.  If the meter is fitted and your bill worked out higher you are not obliged to use the metered supply.  To go down this route; arrange to have a meter installed and once done, 2 months readings will let you know the result.  I did this for a friend and reduced the bill from £560 per year to £63……

 

The customer profiling may determine the type of reminder you receive if your bill becomes overdue.  The wording of these ‘special’ letters is more strongly worded than the standard reminder and is deliberately designed to pressure you into paying your bill quickly.  Ethics aside, this letter may come from a company calling itself Frontier Debt Collections.  If you search the net you will find that this is an ‘off the shelf’ program available to anyone and customisable.  If you receive one of these letters, don’t panic.  It holds no more weight than a standard reminder.  If you call Frontier Debt Collections you are speaking to the normal Anglian Water Debt Recovery Team, which brings us nicely onto the final step.

Water is considered a basic human right and it cannot be disconnected from a domestic supply.  It is important to keep this in mind when dealing with an outstanding bill or an ongoing bill which you are not able to afford.  When prioritising your debts place water at the bottom.  Anglian Water cannot fit a special meter that steals half of your money whenever you top up and they cannot cut off your supply.  If you find yourself unable to meet your commitments, make Anglian Water an offer of £1 per week stating that you are aware this will not cover your usage and that you aware arrears will accrue.  Then explain that you hope to rectify this situation as soon as your circumstances change.  I am not advocating building up a huge debt with Anglian Water but they can afford to supply you whilst you may be having difficulty feeding yourself, so it’s worth bearing in mind……

As an ethical company Anglian Water has one goal in mind; to return the maximum profit for its shareholders, not to help you, little old ladies, people with health problems, surviving on benefits or with language barriers.  As a company they claim to ‘support’  the WaterAid charity.  The amount of money donated from the company’s vast profits last year: NOTHING, ZITCH, NOT ONE PENNY.  The only money that WaterAid receive comes from the charity work of people who work for the company (on their own time obviously), or from customers whose relative may have passed away leaving their account in credit by a small amount, which they choose to donate……

‘Good old Anglian Water.  Always there to help (their shareholders)……’

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One Response to “The Great H2O Swindle……”

  1. javadrahmani May 14, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    Crawling through every tax loophole they can find! I used this number (http://www.customerserviceguru.co.uk/anglian-water-contact-number/) to call them last time, should I change it to 0800 at the start then?

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