All my adult life I have paid my Energy fuel bills quarterly on a payment plan by direct debit monthly and was always in credit when the bill came .
That was until I moved to where I am now in 2003, When I moved in there was a key meter for the Electric and a card for the gas both with British Gas.
British Gas wouldn’t allow me a quarterly meter because in the past there had been debts on the meter. The fact that I was a new tenant meant nothing to them, in fact I had to show my tenancy notice to them to have the debt removed from the meters. I had thought at the time when we had been in the house three months I was paying a lot for gas and electric but never having had pre payment meters in the past I didn’t know and I remember people telling me that you always paid more for key meters.
It was only when I called them to find out about changing the meter I found out. Anyway the beginning of 2008 I had someone from EDF knock the door trying to get me to change providers, I said if you could change me from prepayment to quarterly I would consider it as I hated having to top up the gas and electric all the time and had a fear of running out and having no money at the time to top it up , especially with two little ones in the house. I was told no because of the area I lived in and the fact that they wouldn’t risk it. so I left it thinking we would always be on pre payment meters.
I think in the next month we had everyone knock from all the various providers and I asked them all could I go on quarterly bills and all told me No except one who wanted over £350 to change the gas meter but wouldn’t change the electric I declined their offer.
Then NPower came he asked questions about our heating system at the time. How long had we lived here? did we have storage heaters? No we had gas central heating and he then agreed if I changed both gas and electric to them I could have both on quarterly bills, YES at last. This was even better so I signed the paperwork and changed over to NPower.
While I wanted a quarterly bill I also wanted to pay monthly or weekly as I had done in the past when I had quarterly bills, I was told I would have to wait for the first quarter bill to come in before my payment plan could go into action and they would then be able to give me the right amount to pay which was fine by me. the bill came and they told me how much to pay . first problem because my ex husband (who still is) was made bankrupt on our joint account I can’t get a bank account in my name so I always used Allan’s account which has worked fine until now as we have a card each to use. NPower wouldn’t accept his name on the fuel account as it had been in my name in the past, so they wouldn’t accept payment from his debit card either. so the gave me a payment card and I paid the set amount every month by cash. Each bill I got was always for information only but I was always in credit by a little. which is how I wanted it.
When fuel costs went up they adjusted my amount to pay. No problems at all until November 2011 when they kept asking for both meter readings all the time, I had someone out to read them every 6 weeks then in Jan 2012. Now I had, had a new central heating system installed so we were now on a combi boiler which was a lot cheaper to run than the old gas heating we had.
So I could understand them having concerns that our gas consumption had halved. The next thing I know is someone came and said they had to install a new meter as they were updating them all, so fine by me I gave them access and they changed the electric meter. Then I got another letter saying could I do twice daily meter readings for a week. by this time I am totally fucked off with the whole situations so called them up and asked why.. This is when I was told it was because I had over a £4750 debt on my electric account.. WTF seriously I had always paid what they asked , According to the old meter we owed and they wanted it paid back asap. As well as disputing the amount I was supposed to have owed I also was not happy with the way they had never even mentioned anything about any debt adding up. It went to complaints department. and I was told to pay what they said my usage would be which was about £15 I explained that I probably did have a higher usage than that as I used a tumble dryer and had at least 9 fish tanks up and running plus some viv’s but they insisted in that case £20 would more than cover it and for me to pay £20 per week until it was sorted. Then I started getting right of entry letters to change the meter onto a pre payment with a debt.. or disconnect notice, each time I would call up and say it was in dispute and the ref number and name of the person I had spoken to. each time they said ignore the letters… Yes ok its al right to say ignore them but when you get them every month and are given 7 days notice you worry.
Then I got a letter telling me my complaint had closed as they had been unable to contact me.. well I have a caller display phone so can see who has tried calling me, I had received no letters concerning the complaint.. no emails… I called them up again and this time really lost all diplomacy…. They admitted my old meter had a fault and it had been charging me on an economy 7 rate but at the high rate day and night. so had overcharged me.. but they said because I had high usage… (hey I told them that ages ago) there was no way they could work out my exact usage but were willing to deduct a lump sum of £2250 but I still owed them over £2500 ..
I really lost the plot now and said that they had always given me the amount I had to pay.. the debt had risen without my knowledge… they said that’s ok I can pay the debt back over a year and pay weekly payments towards my consumption of £25 so they wanted a weekly payment of £74 altogether… yes of course I have that spare cash around every week to pay just the electric. I pointed out that it had taken years to accumulate this debt through no fault of my own and I was not a happy bunny.. I was passed onto about three different people before I finally got one who agreed to deduct £500 for compensation for all the hassle I have had. he agreed to freeze the cost of electric until 2015 (which helps in the short run) and he agreed I could pay £25 off my usage and £13 per week off my debt until its paid up… so the debt I originally had of £4750 had been reduced to £2000 and I had about three years to pay it.. but of course my electric bill is only being frozen until 2015 and then It will go up so I can see then that I will have to pay more on consumption and still have two years left to pay the debt. And of course while I owe a debt I can’t change provider and shop around like everyone else…
Ironically I am in credit with my gas because they insisted I paid what I had to pay before the combi boiler was installed and I have just been told to reduce my payments to £1 per week as I am so much in credit… This was after someone had been around to inspect my gas meter in-case it had been tampered with.
Ok maybe I haven’t won the war with NPower.. I don’t think anyone will take on a fuel provider and win but I think I won the battle. and you can bet your sweet rats arse that as soon as it’s all paid up I will change provider and get rid of NPower once and for all.
what does worry me a lot is the fact that I am a bad tempered miserable cantankerous opinionated old cow who wont take shit from anyone and will argue to the death if I know I am in the right and even so I did worry a little in case the electric got cut off while I was arguing with them.
I wonder how many people have been billed in the past and just paid up without questioning the amount or how the debt occurred and how many people have worried themselves sick over a similar situation.