Wallsend's Walter Koch has a message for Hunter Water: he'd like his $14,000 back.
Over 15 years ago, Mr Koch bought a neighboring cottage and knocked it down to create a garden for his mother, who had moved in with him. EnergyAustralia, AGL and Telstra sent teams to disconnect their infrastructure from the property.
When he contacted Hunter Water to disconnect theirs, a customer service representative told him he had to get a plumber to cut the water pipe behind the water meter and cut the sewer connection - which he did.
"A month or so later I rang them up to ask why I was still getting bills for water and sewerage maintenance and they explained to me it was like council rates. I thought that was fair enough," he said.
In 2016, 13 years and approximately $8000 later, he found out that information was incorrect.
He rang Hunter Water, and said a representative told him he had been given the wrong advice initially. To disconnect the service he had to get a form from Hunter Water's website, have the plumber fill it in and return the water meter. Mr Koch went through these steps.
"Then a Hunter Water representative in Boolaroo rang me and said, 'Why did you take your water meter, we leave them connected.'"
Mr Koch negotiated to get a credit for the bills he had paid since 2003, however Hunter Water told him there was no record of a disconnection in 2003. His bills show there was no usage during the period.
Mr Koch stopped paying the maintenance bills in 2016. In 2017, he said Hunter Water told him the pipe connecting to the main had to be cut beneath the road for the disconnection to be complete. After Mr Koch struggled to get quotes for the work over the summer period, Hunter Water sent their own plumbers and charged $3000.
In March 2019, Hunter Water and Mr Koch went to court over his debts. The court found in favor of Hunter Water and ordered Mr Koch pay $5042 for their solicitors, plumbing work, and the water bills from 2016 - but not the sewerage.
A Hunter Water spokesperson acknowledged there had been a dispute but said they could not discuss customers' accounts.
"It is a requirement that the customer or their plumber completes a disconnection application form and returns the water meter, and completes the disconnection to relevant plumbing standards," she said.
Hunter Water's Customer Contract outlines that customers are responsible for completing disconnection to "Hunter Water's Services Connections Standard". It states customers will be charged for service, even if they are not using the service, until the disconnection has been confirmed and infrastructure returned. The contract was available online and "advertised" annually in customer bills, the spokesperson said.
Mr Koch said he had never seen the contract, and regardless of its content, Hunter Water had engaged in poor customer care.
"They gave me bad advice but won't take responsibility. It feels like a rort," he said.
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