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# Should my water bill DOUBLE if I pay monthly instead of twice a year?

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We recently received our latest bill from South East Water and they charged us £272.25 for six months.

My water bills are sent out twice a year and I pay them as soon as they arrive.

The bill says my average monthly water consumption is £37.50. Multiply that by six months and it’s £225, about £50 less than my bill amount. A year would cost £450. All of that makes sense.

How much does it cost? One reader’s water bill shows that his consumption is £37.50 on average, but if he decides to pay monthly instead of every six months, he would have to fork out £83.

But if you had to pay monthly, the bill says you would have to pay £83 per month. That would mean £498 for six months or £996 for a year.

How is it fair that paying monthly has such a large penalty? AB, SE England

Helen Crane from This is Money responds: Thank you for sending me a copy of your invoice. I was also surprised to see such a large increase in payments depending on whether you chose semi-annual or monthly billing.

In April, the average water bill will be £473 a year, having risen by more than £50 a year since 2020-21, so I understand why customers like you are keen to control what they pay.

The industry has defended the increases, saying water companies need to improve infrastructure following public backlash against water shortages and cases of wastewater being pumped into rivers.

According to your South East Water bill, if you choose to pay monthly you will pay £498 spread over the next six months.

That’s almost double the amount you would pay if you paid the semi-annual bill all at once, so I understand why you don’t think this is fair.

Sharp rise: The typical water bill will rise by £27 this year to £473, having risen since 2020/21.

Paying the six payments of £83 would clear the existing debit of £272.25 on your account, which relates to your water usage over the previous six months, and leave you with £226 in credit.

There is also the argument that the monthly amount may need to be slightly higher than your current usage, in case you have used more water in future months and need a little reserve.

However, you have a water meter, so you can monitor how much you are using and hopefully avoid it.

The credit you built up could also go toward paying future bills. However, requiring you to pay much more than you currently owe seems excessive.

### Are you affected?

Are your monthly water bill payments much higher than they would be if you paid every six months?

Get in touch: helen.crane@thisismoney.co.uk

You say you can pay six months in one go, but you consider it unfair that those who cannot afford it are effectively forced to pay six months of future credit in advance.

I agree. According to the Water Consumer Council, almost a fifth of customers are struggling to pay their water bill.

Unfortunately, companies of all types often increase the price for those who need to spread the cost of their bills into monthly payments, rather than paying them all at once. But even then, it’s rare for the cost to double.

So was the figure an error or is this really what’s happening? I contacted South East Water to ask them to clarify things.

Simon Mullan, head of retail household at South East Water, confirmed the figure was accurate and if he switched to monthly payment he would have to pay £83.

“Since our customer has not paid for the last six months, the first time they choose this payment option, they will pay the outstanding balance, plus the customer’s monthly usage,” he added.

However, it said this figure would be “subject to monthly review”, which would occur automatically each time a bill was sent and would be based on your water consumption as reported by your meter.

Basically, you would pay up front for the last six months of use, as well as the next six. It would mean your next bill could be close to zero.

It seems to me as if those who can pay twice a year can use the water first and then pay for it later.

But those who can’t afford to pay as much at once are forced to pay more in the long run, as high monthly payments force them to accumulate future credit they may not need.

Mullan said South East Water’s standard monthly plans were “pay as you go” and the system was designed “to prevent customers from falling behind on their payments”.

It also said it offered “affordable” payments for those who could not pay the full recommended amount, as well as the option to spread bills over a longer period.

It’s worth noting that customers can request a refund of the credit they have with their water company, as well as with gas and electric companies.

However, the fact that they can claim it later won’t be of much comfort to those struggling to meet today’s higher monthly payments.

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