Householders in a Staffordshire village wrongly charged for surface water drainage for many years are to receive more than £400,000 from Severn Trent Water.
The rebate for 700 homes and local businesses in Marchington near Uttoxeter follows the intervention of the Consumer Council for Water.
Severn Trent agreed to refund the incorrectly billed customers back to 2001.
Surface water is rainwater that falls on to a property or water that drains to the public sewer from such activities as car washing.
This includes water that flows through gutters or runs into the road and ends up in a company-owned sewer.
The surface water drainage charge then covers the costs of taking away and treating this water.
But villagers in Marchington discovered they were being charged for surface water drainage which did not run into the waste sewer and applied for rebates.
Severn Trent was initially only prepared to do this for one year for residents who made specific applications.
But Marchington Parish Council pushed for a rebate for all customers who had been paying years for a service they hadn’t been receiving.
Sir James Perowne, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water Central and Eastern, said: ‘It is important to remember that this kind of oversight might occur in other villages. So we urge customers to check their bills and if in any doubt, contact their water company.’
Most properties are connected to a public sewer, particularly houses built in the last 40 years.
However, some have downpipes which go into a soakaway – a large underground pit filled with gravel within the boundary of the property.
You can check whether you should be paying the surface water drainage charge by making an application to your water company.
It will check that you qualify for a rebate and can remove the charge from future bills, as well as deduct the charge for the year you apply.
The Consumer Council for Water says that when water and sewerage companies were privatised in 1989, they were sold with poorly kept records of the water and sewerage infrastructures.
The records did not show which properties are connected and which are not for surface water drainage purposes.
It adds that it is therefore up to customers to let the companies know by making an application for the rebate.