Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Consumer: Salon that got brush-off over £20k water bill wins meter row

Jason Shankey (left) with Mark Crawford, head of consumer support at the Consumer Council, after resolving his dispute with NI Water
Jason Shankey (left) with Mark Crawford, head of consumer support at the Consumer Council, after resolving his dispute with NI Water

It's a tricky world out there and no one is immune to a potential fight against a big company or any of the local authorities. Just ask one well-established Northern Ireland businessman who received a massive water bill demanding more than £20,000.

Problems began for Jason Shankey three years ago when a meter was installed in his salon in Ballyhackamore in east Belfast.

The meter, pertaining to a shared water supply, was supposed to serve his premises – Jason Shankey Male Grooming – and three others.

It soon emerged, however, that something had not gone quite according to plan.

Indeed, Mr Shankey soon began to receive large bills and it became clear to him that he was being charged water rates for the other three businesses on top of his own.

The problem was then compounded when he was charged for water leaks affecting all four properties.

After trying to resolve the issue with NI Water himself, the salon owner decided to hand his case over to experts at the Consumer Council.

"We'd had over three years' worth of hassle trying to resolve our issues with NI Water and I finally got fed up," Mr Shankey said. "As the owner of a small business, I couldn't afford to lose £20,000 on water I hadn't used. We were at the end of our tether.

"I thought the Consumer Council was only there to assist ordinary consumers, but I was so relieved when I realised it was there to help businesses too."

He added: "I would have been faced with paying the bill for four different premises without the Consumer Council's intervention, as well as further loss to the business as a result of me having to take so much time to deal with the issues."

The watchdog's head of consumer support Mark Crawford said he was pleased with the outcome of the case.

"We were delighted to help as £20,000 is a lot of money. We would encourage any business experiencing problems in any of these areas to get in touch as we may be able to help."

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So, what's your story? Let us know if you have any consumer concerns. Contact: cmcneilly@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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