Protest over water supplier

August 31 2021

PEOPLE living in Lyde Green say they have “no confidence” in their water supplier, amid a barrage of complaints.
Unlike other areas nearby, people in Lyde Green pay their bills for water and sewerage to Leep Utilities, under rules which allow smaller companies to supply new estates.
But residents say they are being overcharged, having “random” extra direct debits taken from their accounts and suffering from poor customer service.
A petition has been launched which calls on the company “to stop the mass overcharging of Lyde Green residents” and resolve the problems.
Leep says it is meeting with customers to understand and resolve problems.
The petition on website change.org was started by resident Andrew Clark, and had been backed by more than 300 people as the Voice went to print.
It states that the company “has been charging double and triple the usual rate” with “really poor customer service and no way to resolve the issue”.
Declaring that the signatories have “no confidence in Leep Utilities”, it calls for the services to be run by Bristol Water instead - although Andrew has since been told this is not possible under current rules.
Andrew said Leep’s bill for his two-bed flat in Lyde Green, at £85 per month, is double what he was paying for a property the same size in Fishponds.
After a struggle to contact Leep, staff suggested he might have a leak so he paid for two different plumbers to check - and they found nothing wrong.
Andrew said many other people had shared their experience of problems, from high charges and inexplicable direct debits to calls for help going to voicemails, which were not answered.
He said: “Everything about Leep Utilities is going wrong - the bills are wrong, the customer service is wrong and the way they take your money is wrong.
“We’re just trying to find some way as a collective to get them to fix it, because individually it’s impossible.”
Andrew has contacted official customer champion the Consumer Council for Water and with some other residents and town councillors has now met with Leep to start addressing the problems.
Leep was launched in 2017 and took over supplies to Lyde Green when it bought out SSE Water two years later.
In a statement to the Voice, the company said: “Leep Utilities prides itself on providing great customer service and has been meeting with its customers in Emersons Green to understand their issues and to explain both Leep’s charges and services provided.
“Where there have been individual concerns raised, we are working directly with those customers to resolve any issues and would continue to encourage any of our customers to talk to us if they need assistance.”
Leep insisted its prices “match, or in some cases, are lower than” regional suppliers, its average monthly bill in Emersons Green was £33.21 and said variations were due to previous underpayments, including to SSE Water.
The company said it was replacing its voicemail system with a call-back facility that meant 94% of customers “get through to us either first time or get a call-back within an hour”.
It added: “Leep Utilities is committed to working with any of its customers that have issues until they have been resolved to mutual satisfaction.”
Emersons Green town councillor Matt Palmer attended a “fairly productive” meeting with Leep to discuss the problems.
He said: “Leep admitted that there were a few issues they needed to resolve, particularly customers’ ability to get hold of and speak to an actual person, as well as having no online platform.
Matt said the company pledged to investigate the cases presented to them, and compare average bills for all sizes of homes in Lyde Green to those in other areas.
He added: “Leep stressed that water rates have to be the same as Bristol Water, so they were very unsure as to what was causing high bills in Lyde Green.”
Another meeting was due to take place on September 6.
The petition can be found online at chng.it/4XRTF8kNWD