Castle Water Logo

Castle Water CEO, John Reynolds, Provides An Update On Refunds Resulting From Businesses Temporarily Closing During Lockdown

I was very relieved when Ofwat accepted, in early April, Castle Water’s arguments that customers required to close during the lockdown shouldn’t be charged.

The detailed rules put in place to administer this have been complex, and carefully monitored by Ofwat. The Covid-19 temporary vacant notifications, which were valid for closures occurring within the period 16 March to 31 July, were required to be removed from the central water market systems (CMOS) by 1 October.

We are therefore now able to finish recalculating invoices for customers who have not yet been rebilled and who have informed us they closed during the lockdown. For a limited period, we are still able to correct information we have about dates of closure and re-opening (if we do not already have them), so we can ensure your bill accurately reflects consumption.

If you have a resulting credit on your account, we will shortly write to you with the choice of leaving the credit pending your next bill, or receiving a refund.

If you have not previously informed us that you closed during the lockdown, we may not now be able to remove fixed charges from your account.

It is important to note that:

  • Because Ofwat decided to end the period of Covid-19 closure on 31 July we are required to charge in full from 1 August onwards (unless your business was fully vacated – see below for what this means)
  • In most cases, the temporary vacant flag has been applied from 24 March, the first day after the lockdown came into effect
  • Charges are applied for metered usage even if you were closed

It is important that we all pay our fair share of providing a safe clean water supply, but at the same time I want to make sure customers are charged no more than they should be.

Vacant Premises

With effect from 1 August, premises are only treated as vacant (and therefore not charged) if they satisfy the requirements of i) being unfurnished; and ii) having no stock.

In addition, we are required to charge if there is any consumption, as this is treated by Ofwat as being evidence of occupation. Therefore:

  • Please notify us if you have remained closed after 1 August and have removed furniture, stock and other moveable equipment – it is important that you state clearly that this is the case
  • If your premises are vacant, where possible please turn off water at the stopcock to ensure there can be no water usage (eg from dripping taps)

Providing a meter reading

We have been taking around 35,000 meter readings a month since the lockdown ended, but won’t be able to take readings for all of our customers. We are also still unable to take internal meter readings, as this isn’t possible in most cases due to social distancing restrictions.

If you have an internal meter, or would like to provide us with a meter reading, please use the button below. For every reading you submit, we’ll donate £1 to Save the Children’s Emergency fund.

You should provide us with a meter reading 10 days before your next bill is due – most of our customers are billed 6-monthly.

Submit a meter reading

Once we’ve got your readings, we’ll then be able to take these into account when we produce your next bill.

Tips for reading your meter

I appreciate that it can be frustrating if you don’t normally read your own meter. These tips from our meter readers may help you:

  • The easiest way to get a clear meter reading is to take a photo of the meter screen with your phone – this is easier than trying to shine a torch down a meter pit. When you submit the meter reading you can upload the photo at the same time
  • Customers are allowed to access their water meters and read meters, including if they are under a water company manhole cover
  • Meter pits can become full of water, as they are below ground – this doesn’t normally indicate a leak. A simple hand pump will clear the water, but if necessary water can be emptied using a bicycle pump (and yes, I’ve tried it myself and it works)
  • If there is condensation on the meter, and the pit is below ground, you can tie a sponge to a pole and wipe off the condensation
  • Don’t try to read the meter if it is unsafe to do so

If you have not already done so:

Let us know if your business was closed between 16 March and 31 July 2020 or if you are unsure if your billing has been adjusted accordingly, please complete the Covid-19 Closure Form below.

Covid-19 Closure Form