Going with the flow: Here’s a happy new year tip from my regular tipster Steve Vaughan, Handbridge Services, Chester. He knows first hand that forecourt operators are more than happy to make any and all savings possible. And lately he’s been looking at wait for it water. Sounds straightforward, simple, but it isn’t.

’’Research shows more than one in four companies are being overcharged for water and millions of pounds are waiting to be claimed," says Andrew Snowball, senior analyst at Water Management Solutions (WMS), which has been shaving away at Steve’s water rates.

Snowball adds: "A company’s water bill is made up of a number of components, with consumption being only one, and in almost all instances the client only sees the overall charges from the water companies. Overcharges are never volunteered by the water companies, but working in partnership with WMS, we will identify the incorrect charges, submit detailed claims on a client’s behalf and see the claim through to settlement."

It gets better. "Often overcharging remains undetected and under statute of limitation, we can often recover overcharging as far back as six years for the client."

This specialist water consultancy can decode your water bill and help achieve, in some cases, significant refunds. This, says Snowball, will stand you in good stead with optimised tariffs ahead of the water deregulation coming in April. (In the same way that gas and electricity markets were deregulated so that you could shop around for the best deal, the water market is following suit).

"Best of all, there are no upfront fees to pay as all of our work is completed on a performance-related fee basis. If savings are achievable, a fee is then payable from those savings, but only once you have received the money back from your supplier." WMS has some big and impressive clients but has recently rolled out its model to the SME market "with astounding results". So drop him an email: andrew.snowball@watermanagementsolutions.co.uk to find out more.

Adding fuel to the flames

In last November’s issue I wrote about the difficult journey that Doug Wardle had had over his final five-year contract between his business, Jack’s of Norton, and NWF Fuels (A feud over a fuel deal). Essentially it cost him £30k to end the contract plus a legal bill. The piece included a lengthy reply from NWF Fuels’ managing director Kevin Kennerley.

This had resonance with Laurence Haring, who has petrol stations in Bath and the South West, who wrote: "I have just been reading the sad story of Doug Wardle. I know it so well as as you probably remember NWF fuels did the same thing to me back in 2010." Indeed I do remember and also the fact that I didn’t name the company because he feared retribution. But he is no longer supplied by them so he adds: "In 2010, I found that NWF had overcharged us by £8,000 and so I requested that this be repaid to us. A week or so later, I received a call from the then financial director of NWF to advise that our credit limit had been cut from £150,000 excl VAT to £50,000 incl VAT, literally overnight. I had numerous meetings with NWF’s Mr Kennerley.

"I was advised that there had been a few companies where the debts had gone bad and limits were being cut to avoid a similar scenario, as ’related’ bonuses would be affected."

To counter the problem...

Here’s a happy ending to a story that started in 2015. Mohammed Nabi, who runs Mayland Service Station in Mayland, Essex, rang in the first instance to complain that his new Scratchcard dispenser was taking up half of his counter but the unit always had a few empty spaces. So it really was a waste of valuable space. Camelot gave me a full explanation. They also said they got in touch with Mohammed and that he was happy with the outcome. Indeed he is. "They are much better now. All up-to-date."

And, as a few months have now gone by, well, fingers crossed.

Improved help

Things are looking up for two retailers who have had run-ins with Htec. Adrian Moore, who runs a Gulf site in Grizebeck in Cumbria, has had an Htec system for seven years. He didn’t renew his maintenance contract because he was told the VAT changes weren’t covered by it. He then found that he couldn’t get the Chip & PIN facility for Allstar. "Suresite said they can’t upgrade because Htec says I’m a closed-down site." He presumed this was because he had cancelled his maintenance contract.

I contacted Htec which said it was a bit puzzled because they are partners with Suresite and couldn’t find a record of calls from Adrian. But they wrote to him and Adrian says progress is now being made in the form of a little interface box that can facilitate card processing. "Hopefully things are on the up."

Adrian contacted me in the first place after reading about Andrew McDonald’s Htec saga in this column last October. Andrew (Pearl Motors, Sheffield) complained about the number of times he had to continually report faults. Htec promised to visit and Andrew reports that he has now had plenty of these from someone who was able to witness the problems first hand. It is looking like there will be a new system for Andrew soon.