Southern Water customers in Hastings boycott bills and criticise firm over sewage leaks

The company says it is investing £3 billion to find new solutions - but some customers are still refusing to pay their full bills. Credit: ITV Meridian

Unhappy water customers, some who are boycotting their water bills, are gathering in Hastings today to work out how they can get Southern Water to improve its service.

Many of them have protested before about the company polluting the sea with sewage.

The company says it is investing £3 billion to find new solutions - but some customers are still refusing to pay their full bills.

The gathering was organised by the Hastings Boycotts Southern Water (HBSW) group,.

Olivia Cavanagh has been boycotting the wastewater part of her Southern Water bill for three years and has seen off several debt collection agencies over the years.

Speaking on behalf of HBSW she said: "New people are joining the movement all the time and the one thing that we are consistently asked is whether we can offer support or advice.

"We felt this would be the right forum to bring people together and compare notes.

"There are lots of different ways to register your protest and we want to share what we’ve learned over the years and decide on how we want to move forward together."

  • Katy Colley is one of the founders of the water bill boycott

Katy Colley from said: "This is very exciting. Previously, we have been acting on our own and it is easy to feel isolated and scared, especially when you’re up against a giant corporation threatening you with all sorts of nasty stuff.

"We’ve been holding lots of online meetings but getting together in person is a wonderful way to give support to one another and share notes and ideas.

"We have always believed that we are stronger together, and this feels like the start of a very important journey."

In November, the Consumer Council of Water (CCW) released a statement regarding the issue.

A spokesperson said: "We’re aware of some customers who have decided to boycott paying part or all of their water and sewerage bill in protest at their water company’s environmental performance.

"We completely understand customers’ anger and frustration on this issue.

"However, our advice to people who approach us with a complaint regarding this matter is to continue paying their charges.

"Customers who are considering boycotting payment should understand they could face debt recovery action from their water company.

"This could negatively impact their credit rating and also potentially result in additional costs being added to their bill."

Protests have been held against the company over sewage spills. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The spokesperson for CCW continued: "There is no requirement for a water company to suspend or delay debt recovery action just because a customer has raised a dispute with them or CCW.

"Ofwat’s Paying Fair guidance only applies where a water company is investigating the accuracy of a customer’s bill or whether it has been paid. This is not relevant here as customers are choosing to boycott bill payment.

"Any issues that customers want to raise about the performance of water companies should be raised with the company directly in the first instance, and – if concerns remain unresolved – Ofwat, the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales as appropriate."

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