A Benalla family is astounded at their water bill service charges being about 20 times more than their usage costs.By Meg Pigram
According to Pam and Ron Cook, their home is self-sufficient.
They have two rainwater tanks, use their food scraps for compost and have an automated system installed that pushes excess water from the tanks onto the gardens.
Yet they can’t understand the service charges on their water account from North East Water.
Their latest account received last month showed the Cooks had used $2.31 worth of water — that’s two cents per day.
Despite that $2.31 water usage fee, the couple is paying $48.58 in ‘service charges’.
‘‘It’s just ludicrous — we can’t let it pass up, we need to speak out about this,’’ Mr Cook said.
A frustrated Mr Cook took his concerns direct to North East Water where he claims he got ‘‘nothing much back’’.
‘‘They couldn’t explain it; I sent them a few emails and they basically told me that I just have to pay it,’’ he said.
‘‘There is nothing more Pam and I can do to save money — we are more conservative than most.’’
When the Ensign approached North East Water for a response, it wanted to know specific account details of the people in question, which the Ensign did not supply. The company then formulated a generic response.
‘‘North East Water, in response to this tariff concerned, have over the last five years revised its tariff structure from 33 per cent of operating revenue, coming from variable (volumetric) charges, to 66 per cent,’’ corporate services executive manager Anthony Herman said.
‘‘This has resulted in North East Water charging some of the lowest fixed service fees in regional Victoria.’’
But even that doesn’t sit well with Mr Cook, who said he feels North East Water charges the fees it does because people can’t shop around.
‘‘When it comes to electricity and gas, you have alternate options, you can look for a better deal, but when it concerns your water usage, you have nothing — except North East Water,’’Mr Cook said.
His response to fixing the problem lies with offering customers a rebate for those who are conservative.
‘‘Reduce the service charge for those who don’t use huge amounts of water — it is absolutely ludicrous that we are paying the same amount as someone who doesn’t have tanks at their home,’’ he said.
Mr Herman said North East Water’s pricing submission for the next five years, 2013-14 to 2017-18, was being considered by the Essential Services Commission.
‘‘The Commission would welcome any customer feedback at their information session to be conducted in Wodonga on Monday, November 12, or through written submissions on such issues,’’ he said.
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