Around 300,000 Anglian Water customers on its metered SoLow tariff will be moved to its standard tariff from the 1 April, which will see bills rocket.
Anglian Water's SoLow tariff is for low users who use an average of 45 cubic meters/year – enough to fill around 560 baths.
But concerned customers have contacted us to say the switch could mean their bills quadruple in three years' time as they'll be forced to pay a standing charge of up to £115/year, which currently isn't applied to the SoLow tariff.
Standing charges cover the costs of supplying water and collecting and treating used water. See our Cut Your Water Bills guide for how to make savings, get freebies, and more.
The move by Anglian will see SoLow customers pay a subsidised standing charge for three years from 1 April.
In year one this will be £21.52/year for water supply and £21.61/year for sewerage services, which equates to an extra £43.13/year (for both services). In the following two years it's likely to rise again by a small increment, although the prices have not yet been announced.
After the three years they'll pay the same standing charge as those on the standard tariff – currently up to £115/year for water and sewerage, though this figure is linked to inflation so it could be higher in three years' time.
Anglian Water, which serves six million customers in East Anglia, including Northampton, Peterborough, Ipswich and Milton Keynes, says around 5% of its total user base is on the metered SoLow tariff, which is around 300,000 households.
All households will be switched to a standard tariff from 1 April, unless they qualify for Anglian's new means-assessed Lite tariff – continue reading for more info on this. Anglian Water adds that it consulted with the Consumer Council for Water on the changes.
'My costs for water will increase by well over £100 per year'
Steven got in touch with us about the move. He says he lives alone in a flat, uses around 10 cubic metres a year, and pays £40 for his annual water and sewerage service. But once he's moved on to the standard tariff his standing charge at current prices will be £115, on top of his usual £40/year water service cost.
He says: "Anglian Water is bumping everybody onto its standard rate tariff over a three year period and at the same time doubling my bill the first year and quadrupling my bill on the third year on the full standard rate of £115 standing charge at current prices, plus cubic metre usage.
"My bills are very small. I know it's very cheap but that's what I am used to on the SoLow tariff and I'm very reluctant to see my cheapest household bill go up alarmingly."
Fellow SoLow customer David, who pays less than £70 per year, says: "I have calculated that at the end of the three years my costs for water will increase by well over £100 per year regardless of water usage.
"I am extremely perplexed by this move especially as I am unable to change water providers without moving house."
Meanwhile Redfox posted on our forum: "Anglian Water is forcing people off the SoLow tariff resulting in huge annual increases. I'm affected by this and will see my bills rise 30% this year, then more than 30% again next year and the same again the year after.
"With no choice to move it's pretty outrageous that it can do this. If any other utility company tried to do this to you you'd switch immediately but as you can't, Anglian Water can basically charge what it wants!"
What can I do?
The water market may be privatised, but it's not open to competition, so you can't switch and your actions are limited. The most important decision to make is whether you can save by switching to a water meter. Generally those with more bedrooms in their house than people could save.
However SoLow customers are already on a water meter so they can't save by switching to a meter. The only way they may save is to switch to another Anglian tariff.
It's new means-assessed Lite tariff for those who are struggling to pay, launches from 1 April. You can't apply for this tariff until then, but you can register your interest by completing an online form on its website.
Anglian Water also offers a WaterSure tariff for those claiming certain benefits and those with a medical condition, otherwise there's also its AquaCare tariff for those claiming certain benefits.
Anglian adds: "Alternative tariffs are available, and we offer a range of support for customers who are struggling to pay, such as free water meters with a two year switchback guarantee, free water saving devices and financial support through the Anglian Water Assistance Fund."
If you wish to complain, you should first take your complaint to Anglian Water. If you're unhappy with the way your complaint is treated or the response you receive, you can contact the Consumer Council for Water or you can call 0121 644 7500.
The Consumer Council for Water says that while companies usually follow its recommendations, they aren't bound by its decisions.
Is the cost of water increasing too?
SoLow customers pay slightly more per cubic meter of water used than those on a standard tariff, and Anglian Water says that from 1 April the rateable charge for these customers will fall to the same rate paid by those on the standard tariff. See the table below for a full breakdown of prices.
Here's how much Anglian Water currently charges:
Metered charges, standard rate for 2015/16
|Metered Standard Tariff
(including surface water drainage)
(without surface water drainage)
'We do everything we can to help customers manage bills'
An Anglian Water spokesperson says: "The change for SoLow customers will be gradual over three years and while there will be an annual 'standing charge' the amount they will pay per cubic metre will be less. This could mean some customers actually benefit from moving onto the Standard rate.
"However, every customer is individual and will be offered assistance, including us recommending customers for our new tariff where appropriate." Anglian Water adds that it is reducing average bills by 7% (£29/year) from 1 April.