Friday, 14 September 2012

Letter of Complaint: Thames Water

Below is a slightly redacted version of a letter I emailed to the Chief Exec of Thames Water. It worked: I got an apology, a partial refund (for my wasted time), and a contact at Thames Water I can call directly about any future account.

Lesson: normal customer complaint procedures are too slow and frustrating. The head honchos of big organisations often have staff to deal with emails like these.

Dear Sir,

My name is [Alex]. My customer reference number is [6655321]. I pay my water bill at a fixed rate. Critically, I pay my water bill. I have done so in strictest accordance with the advice I've been given by your employees, whom I've had cause to deal with on your premium rate phone services.

My tenancy expires in the middle of the year for which your company tried to charge me (Date 2012; the bill running between Month 2012 and 2013). As such, the bills I got were for amounts that I was never going to pay (anything post Date was irrelevant). I explained that to every single advisor I spoke to at every time I called to deal with Thames Water.

I paid for three months’ worth of water on A Day. I had agreed with the advisor on the phone that that would not quite cover me to the move out date, but as that date had not yet been fixed (although certainly 'in the month of Date'), paying for three months would be fine. I checked that paying the rest later (at Date) would have no ill-effects. I was told that it wouldn't. I asked, again, for a note of the situation to be put on whatever records your company holds about me. I was told that they would. 

On A Later Day I received a red letter from Thames Water. It was quite scary, for someone who had tried very hard to do as he needed to do, and who had made it easy for you to know what the situation was.

Thankfully, it said "If you have paid your bill in the last seven days, please ignore [this letter]". As I had paid my bill in the past 12 days, and had been so assured by the advisor on the phone that I had behaved properly and didn't need to get worried again until I moved out, I ignored the letter.

Today I got a very scary letter from a debt collection agency. I had to call another premium rate number. I was, now that the move out date is certain, able to pay off the £xx.xx I owed (not the £xxx.xx requested alongside threats of legal action and depleted credit ratings).

Clearly, at some point your systems have not worked. They have not worked because your advisors gave incorrect advice about when I had to pay, or because they didn't make the right notes on my file, or because those notes did not stop threatening letters being sent or my details being passed to a debt collection agency.

It wasn't nice to get a scary letter in the post. I don't much care for paying premium rate numbers to deal with scary letters that are not correct (or if they were correct, I don't much care for being told incorrect things by your employees).

I suppose you'll regard the whole operation as a success. I've paid.

You would be wrong though. Because I'm your customer and I am very angry at the way I've been treated, and that your flawed systems have put me at discomfort. And all at my cost.

You might not care. Who else can I get water from? But when Tube adverts tell me to be scrupulous about how long I shower for, it is galling that your company has not been scrupulous with the way it deals with its customers/income streams.

I would very much like you to consider what action by Thames Water would be appropriate to let me know that you do, in fact, care about how customers are treated; and I look forward to your response detailing those actions.



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