£3,645.43 electricy bill for disconnected lowest setting 'fridge!

Published: Thursday, 30 December 2021

This is a seasonal tale of sub-contractor failure which I'd like to share with your readers in the small hope of shaming the trust into action, writes Andrew Bailes.

We are presently spending the Holiday Season away from our boat and the Waterside Moorings at Willow Wren Wharf, Southall, managed residential site where we live aboard her.

Boat had been disconnected

This week, though, we were presented with a somewhat surprising Christmas email: our boat had been "disconnected" from the electricity supply. A quick phone call to a friend who also lives on the moorings was enough to reassure us that Raven had neither sunk nor been stolen. So I decided to investigate further.

Our electricity supplier is Metermacs, a company which has managed our supply since our accounts were handed over to them by Canal & River Trust without any consultation (and how Canal & River Trust do like a consultation) with those affected.

Metermacs' system was advertised to us as allowing us to control our electricity supply online while not on the boat (ie. being able to switch it either "on" or "off"); and as enabling us to pay online (though only in advance) for our electricity at a price set by Metermacs in consultation with the trust. They initially claimed a handling fee, but this mysteriously vanished after a failure to manage their accounts which led to boaters building up debts on a system not intended to handle them.

Questionable improvements

Having been relieved of the responsibility for seeking out a good deal among the privatised companies (a mixed blessing, as we now realise) Waterside Moorings' customers were also deprived of the government's offers of reduced rates for the elderly, disabled or benefit dependent. All questionable improvements at best, and downright dangerous ones as the price of electricity rockets.

All this, though largely financially tolerable to date, has been exacerbated by the sheer incompetence of our providers. It may not be their fault that the bollards were fitted with components intended for indoor use only and not waterproofed, and that the supply is therefore erratic and prone to short-circuits, but it is certainly their responsibility to manage the "online portal" through which they extract payment from their customers.

I'll save any complaints about the shortcomings of this system, and merely share the following screenshot with you. The account in question was left £25 in credit on our departure, and a small fridge on its lowest setting is the sole draw on the electric supply while we are away. It may also reassure you to know that the supply is properly fused and protected from surges.

The account received


I I hope that sharing this image publicly might prompt Canal & River Trust and Waterside to consider the wisdom of employing Metermacs (who may be able to handle the caravan holiday parks shown on their homepage, but certainly can't manage full-time liveaboard customers) and to allow at least the freedom of choice of supplier to their customers.

I ought to add that this is far from the only oddity recorded by moorers at our wharf over the holidays, and I wonder if others of your readers may be having similar experiences.

[Waterside Mooring is the new name for canal-side long term, permanent moorings managed by the Canal & River Trust across England and Wales—Editor.]