Complaint to Unitywater

I’m getting pretty sick of all these expensive bills. TransLink cranked up their rates 15% this week—and still ran their train late so I had to walk home when a bus didn’t wait yesterday—and the combination of rates/water bills has been nasty for a while now. Particularly the water component, which has increased by 33%. So today I paid ¾ of my bill (what it was before the 33% hike) and I emailed ask.us@unitywater.com about it. Need to rant.

Hi,

We received our quarterly bill yesterday. I have been comparing charges on these bills and rates notices to the charges we had before council separated the rates and water charges. The upshot, we pay almost $100 more per month for water and sewerage now—close to $400 where before it was close to $300. There has been no satisfactory explanation given for this price hike of 33%! (and I include the unitywater update spruiking your business and projects—how about you save money and DO NOT print it in the first place, and then pass those savings on.)

I have paid $300 towards my account and will not pay more until a satisfactory explanation of these price increase is given.

You have until 24 February to reply and allow me to pay my account by the due date, or we shall have a glorious and very public fight about why my account is in debt.

regards
Ben

Complaints about unity water (and other water suppliers) have been around for a bit. I don’t really know where it all went belly up. From what I gather the Queensland Government grabbed water utilities off councils, changed things around a bit, then put it back in council responsibility through new supplier organisations—such as Unitywater in our region. Hard to know what’s happened and who to blame, but Unitywater send the bills so I need to start with them.

Here’s some links for those interested:

Update 1: auto response

Thank you for your email. Unitywater encourages and values feedback from our customers and we thank you for your comments / enquiry. A Customer Service Officer will review your email and forward to the relevant Unitywater representative for attention or action within 20 working days.

Wow—20 working days! Should hear back by 28 February then. By which time my bill is overdue. (No, I won’t call them. Phone calls cost money. There’s a principle here!)

Update 2: the reply

As a result of increasing costs to provide high quality water supply and sewerage services in south east Queensland, charges have increased by 33%.

Unitywater is aware that a price increase of around 33% places pressure on both families and businesses, however we have to take into account the rising costs of bulk water supplied to us by the State Government and the cost to deliver clean safe drinking water and reliable sewerage systems throughout our catchment. We have been chartered with the responsibility of operating as cost-effectively as possible without compromising quality or safety standards.

We are also aligning charges across the region with the goal to establishing a fairer system of parity pricing for all our customers.

Yup. I am pretty sure this is now true—everyone in the region got a whopping price increase!

The increasing cost of bulk water which Unitywater purchases at a wholesale rate set by the State Government, owners of the Water Grid Manager. In 2010/11 bulk water prices increased by 21% in the Moreton Bay area and 26% in the Sunshine Coast region.

The Unitywater Board, appointed by the Moreton Bay and Sunshine Coast Councils, sets the fees and charges each financial year.

The South-East Queensland Water (Distribution and Retail Restructuring) and Natural Resources Provisions Act 2009, empowers Unitywater to fix charges and terms for services and facilities.

To protect consumers by ensuring efficient expenditure and fair pricing, an independent regulator, the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) was established from 1 July, 2010. Unitywater is required to justify price setting to the QCA who is responsible for monitoring price regulation until 30 June 2013. From 1 July 2013 their role will change to price regulation.

I went to have a squiz at the Queensland Competition Authority—who, incidentally, share an acronym with the Queensland College of Art, where I studied Animation—and was shocked by the horrible sight of lists and lists of PDF documents to read. No thanks.

Paid my bill. They did reply. Now to acceptance. As the tagline on the L4D2 campaign Hard Rain says: Come Hell and High Water (bills).

So that’s what I did. Played Hard Rain. Take that flood zombies!!

PS: I’ll take water bills over earthquakes any day. Hope NZ recovery goes well!