A report recently suggested that energy prices, should they continue to escalate at their current rate, may outstrip the cost of an average monthly mortgage payment by the year 2020. Even more reason then to examine our current power bills with a proverbial fine tooth comb: energy companies do make mistakes. A case came to my attention recently that made for some very disturbing reading, especially in light of the over-inflated customer care claims made by some of our most established ‘British‘ companies and because of my former four year BBC consumer programme experience. Imagine the scenario. An estimated electric bill for £1083 arrives at your home covering a winter quarter – November to January. You dispute this, after all, you are a single person living alone and spending a minimum of ten hours a day away from home. You couldn’t possibly have used so much power. In the meantime, the company has placed your bill in the hands of a debt collection agency who begin to call at times most inconvenient for you. Feelings of anxiety, vulnerability and a sense of threat lead you into seemingly never ending downward-spiraling ‘customer service’ exchanges. Finally, after dealing with at least half a dozen different overseas operators, they confirm that the outstanding balance on your account is now £12.43. Wow: what an amazing result: compensation, one might think, for all of the sleepless nights and the dogmatic faceless and insulting immovable stance of the supplier. The dream doesn’t last long. An amended bill arrives for £468. The supplier won’t move from this random estimated amount and calls resume from debt collection agencies: again. You are equally surprised to receive a call from a customer service call centre, based in South Africa, on a bank holiday Monday. Eventually, the company offers a 20% discount for a speedy resolution, based on an agreement that you don’t take the matter to the energy Ombudsman. Isn’t there a sinister word for that? Somehow, I don’t think this is the final chapter.
See ‘It takes a lot of energy to handle this’ published in the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph Thursday 6th June 2013