Posted: Wednesday 17th December 2014

Just under half (42%) of those that have made the move to a meter are saving £111 a year.

36% of consumers regret having a water meter installed or moving to a house that has one. Of these, 11% do not know how to get rid of it and 5% claim their supplier will not let them as they've had it over 12 months

44% of those with a meter didn't choose to have one; they moved into a house and inherited it. A further one in ten were part of a compulsory change over and only 12% moved based on supplier recommendation

Amongst those that have a meter, just 12% researched their consumption costs with and without a meter in advance so this could be a contributing factor as to why more than one in ten (14%) ended up paying more

Amongst the 16 million households that do not have a water meter, almost three quarters (72%) do not know if it would save them money so could be missing out on 100 a year. 19% believe it would cost them more

When it comes to support, just 69% of water suppliers provide calculators on their websites and only a third of these link to it from their homepage. 54% of consumers would like to see these on all providers websites and 30% would like suppliers to proactively inform those that would save or lose money on a meter

The prospect of compulsory water meters would make 22% of people furious. 9% would mirror the residents of Ireland and deny their supplier access to install the meter and 3% would refuse to pay the bill

New research from money.co.uk, the UK's fifth largest comparison website, reveals that 14% of water meter customers in the UK claim they are 100 a year worse off a year on average as a result of 'being on the meter'. With more than 10 million households in the UK already on water meters, this means 1.4 million of this group are paying around 140 million more a year than they were on 'rateable bills'. However, this figure could be far higher as more than one in three (34%) are oblivious to the financial impact of the installation as they haven't compared their current payments against historical bills. Unlike gas and electricity, water is the one utility you cannot switch providers for, the cost is a postcode lottery based on the area you live in.

The research, which was commissioned by money.co.uk and conducted by OnePoll, explores the opinions of 750 consumers that currently have a water meter and 750 that do not across 29 of the UK's major water suppliers.

Failed by suppliers

Additional industry analysis carried out by money.co.uk reveals that suppliers may not be offering consumers the necessary tools to make informed decisions with just 69% of the 26 providers researched actually providing water consumption calculators on their websites. However, more disappointingly, just a third of these suppliers actually promoted these calculators on their homepage. Over half of those surveyed (54%) would like to see calculators on all water providers' websites and 30% feel suppliers should stop people switching if it's going to cost them more money. A further 29% feel providers should contact consumers who would definitely save money and advise them to do so.

Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief of money.co.uk comments; "It seems that supplier support and information for those thinking about getting a meter installed is lacking. Our industry analysis has shown that just two out of three suppliers have water usage calculators on their websites and just a third of these promote them on the homepage which is disappointing to say the least. Overall, many suppliers aren't doing enough to give consumers a steer around water meters. This could go some way to explaining why consumers who made a voluntary move to a meter are 140 million out of pocket each year."

Not all bad news

For many, the move to a meter has been a sensible one with just under half (42%) of those that have them claiming they are actually saving 111 per year on average. In total, these 4.2 million consumers are enjoying savings of 466 million a year which means for some it is a cost effective option. Unsurprisingly, 40% of these people fully understood the cost implications before they went ahead with the installation. Amongst the 16 million UK households that don't have a meter, 6% think they would save money if they had one and almost one in ten (9%) simply can't be bothered to make the move.

Compulsory meter rage

More than one in five (22%) claim they would be 'furious' if they were forced to have a water meter installed. A further one in ten (9%) say they would deny their water provider access to their property to install it. 3% feel so strongly about it they would take extreme measures and refuse to pay the bill. A further one in five (18%) are already on a tight budget and simply couldn't afford to pay a higher water bill so feel they cannot allow it to happen and 15% know they'd pay more so don't want one. However, more than one in four (26%) consumers claim they 'wouldn't mind' being switched to a compulsory meter as they 'think' it would save them money. A less proactive 7% would be pleased as they've been 'meaning to do it' for ages.

No choice for many consumers

Of the 10 million households in the UK that have a water meter, our research indicates that 44% of these consumers didn't actually choose to have one - in fact they simply moved into a house with one already installed. In 1990 it became compulsory for all new homes to be fitted with a water meter so this double edged sword will be a growing problem for some and an instant saving for others that move house. A further one in ten were part of a compulsory changeover scheme by their water supplier and just 12% moved based on a recommendation from their supplier.

No going back for 3.6 million who regret having a meter installed

More than one in three (36%) water meter users regret having one installed or moving to a house with one. However, with a strict stipulation from providers that after the first 12 months of installation it is not possible to reverse the decision. 5% would like to change their minds, but their supplier will not let them and more than one in ten (11%) do not know how to get rid of their meter. Just 2% have moved back to a rateable bill after having a meter installed.

There are of course every day measures consumers can take to save money on their water bill but our research shows that 11% of consumers didn't actually implement any of them. For 2% of consumers their family has grown since the installation so it's no longer a cost effective option, this is an importantfactor to consider before making a decision to have a meter installed.

Lack of consumer research

There is an onus on consumers to make sure the decision about switching to a water meter is right for them but sadly just 12% of those that chose to have a water meter installed researched their consumption costs with and without a water meter. More than one in ten (11%) just 'thought' it would be a good idea to save money. Almost one in ten (8%) claim they struggled to make an informed decision as their water supplier couldn't provide them with any information as to whether or not it would save them money. Unfortunately, they just went ahead anyway. Of those that don't yet have a meter, 72% do not know if it would save them money or not as they haven't carried out the relevant checks.

Hannah Maundrell, concludes; "We can't ignore the fact that water meters serve a very important purpose but consumer confusion about their impact on bills is rife. Our research has shown that just under half of all households that have them actually save money. This is promising but there could be many more households that are missing out on the opportunity to save cash. Giving consumers just 12 months to decide if they've made the right decision in having a water meter installed is flawed in itself. Bills are bi-annual for metered customers and often based on estimates so many could make an uninformed choice or miss the 'cooling off' deadline.

"Overall it pays to be proactive: if you don't have a meter you should check whether it could help you save. If you already have one, submit your own meter readings to make sure you're not paying bills based on estimates. Some suppliers read meters as little as once every two years so the safest option is to supply your own."

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April 2021

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