The ominous toilet, outside Building 193 on Rosa Luxembourg Street, Irkutsk.
Twitter/Sarah Rainsford
  • A Russian water provider has imposed a sinister way of incentivising customers to pay their bills on time, according to a BBC report.
  • The "Toilet of Shame" or "Debtors' Toilet" was recently installed outside a tower block in Irkutsk, a town in Siberia, where temperatures dip as low as -28 Celsius.
  • "This is a reminder to all of those who haven't paid their debts," the sign on it reads.

A water company in the freezing Russian region of Siberia has imposed a public "toilet of shame" outside a tower block, to punish residents who don't pay their bills on time.

The wooden single cubicle, also called the "Debtors' Toilet," in the town of Irkutsk has a sign on it which says: "This is a reminder to all of those who haven't paid their debts."

The construction was highlighted by Sarah Rainsford, the BBC's Moscow correspondent, in a report for BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme.

"There is one place in Siberia surely no one wants to be. Well here in the snow and the dirt, outside this tower-block there's a wooden cabin, there's a sign on the door which says "Debtors' toilet," on one side there's an explanation: if they don't pay up they'll be reduced to using outsides toilets like this one. The toilet of shame was installed by Alexei Mihailev, fed up with all the unpaid bills."

It's there to show people what will happen if their water is shut off because they didn't pay their bills - and temperatures in Irkutsk can reach -28 Celsius in the winter months.

Local water supplier The Northern Department of Housing and Communal Systems is responsible for the toilet, putting it in the car park outside the tower in November.

You can see it in place in this video from Rainsford:

Spokesperson Alexei Mihailev told Rainsford in a segment aired on the Today program on Wednesday that the "Toilet of Shame" is there to scare residents into to paying their bills.

He also said he wants to remind them that blocking their toilets by using it after his company has cut their water off is annoying.

Mihailev said: "They go on using the drain after we've shut it off until the pipe backs up and water starts coming out."

After they flood their bathrooms, Mihailev said: "They come to us with big round eyes and they have to sign a payment agreement."

Photos of the toilet first appeared on Russian social media site Vkontakte on November 21.

While it is legal to shut off people's water supply in Russia, in the UK it is against the law.

If you are a domestic customer water companies can't, by law, disconnect or restrict your water supply if you owe them money, according to the Citizen's Advice NGO.

In the US, the case is more complicated, as each state has its own law. In Illinois, for example, a company can shut off the water, but must give you a certain number of days warning to prepare.

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