Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

You Name It; When Davina Dobson Split from Her Husband, Paying Her Utility Bill Became a Bureaucratic Nightmare

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

You Name It; When Davina Dobson Split from Her Husband, Paying Her Utility Bill Became a Bureaucratic Nightmare

Article excerpt

Byline: JANE BARRY

DAVINA Dobson has a simple wish. She wants her name on the Thames Water bills she has been paying for seven years. Utility companies are usually efficient at changing billing details when people move house. But if, like Dobson, you need a change for some other reason, you may find yourself caught in a web of frustration.

Although Dobson has always paid the water bills for her Croydon home, they arrive addressed to her ex-husband, who moved out three years ago. This year, she decided she wanted them in her own name.

As she pays by direct debit, she assumed it would be simple. So she was stunned when Thames Water told her the change required her ex-partner's written permission - which she is unable to get. "They're happy to take my money, but they won't put my name on the account," fumes Dobson.

The reason, according to Thames Water, is data protection. "If the customer paying the bill isn't on the bill, they don't legally have access to bill and meter readings," says a spokeswoman.

But Thames Water possesses far more sensitive data about Dobson than meter readings - her bank account details. Surely that makes a difference? The company acknowledges: "We have her direct debit details. But if she's not the account holder, she won't be privy to all the information on the account."

Dobson did not have this problem with her electricity company, Seeboard. And her other water supplier, South East Water, was happy to make the change if she confirmed her request in writing.

The Data Protection Registrar cannot comment on individual cases, but a spokeswoman says: "The Data Protection Act isn't rigid. If someone's bill is in the name of someone else, it's up to the utility company to decide whether they can change the information.

We always advise them to use common sense in interpreting the Act."

Thankfully, because Dobson is now selling her home, but urgently needs a bill in her name, Thames Water relented, agreeing in July it would make the change if she wrote to them. A month passed with no reply.

Homes & Property has discovered the company has changed her billing details and will issue a bill in her name if she supplies a meter reading. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.