I live in a house share with five friends and our energy bill is usually £129 a month.
But last June, our supplier Ovo sent us a bill completely out of the blue for £1,000.
We hadn’t used any more energy than normal – if anything we were using less as it was the height of summer. I contacted Ovo and said it was a mistake.
But Ovo is sticking with the charge. The £1,000 has been added to our monthly bills to spread out the cost, taking them up to £167 a month.
Summer shocker: These housemates were surprised to be hit with a charge of around eight times their usual gas and electricity bill in June, when they were using little energy
Now we are about to move out and Ovo says we still owe more than £700, which we must pay before we close the account.
With energy bills going up so much at the moment, we really don’t want to let this go – but I’m worried that, as my name is on the bills, I will end up being chased by debt collectors if we don’t pay.
I’d love some help to fight these energy bullies. E.C, South London
Helen Crane, This is Money, replies: Energy bills are sky-high and rising. Regulator Ofgem is hiking its price cap once again tomorrow, increasing the cost by 54 per cent or £693 more each year for the typical household not lucky enough to be in a fix.
The last thing anyone wants to do at the moment is pay through the nose for electricity and gas they haven’t even used.
The amount Ovo charged you was eight times your usual bill, which appears to be a clear mistake coming in the middle of summer.
You have already expended plenty of energy trying to get this confusing charge wiped.
Bigger bills: From 1 April, 22million households will pay more for their energy bills as the price cap rises. Those with poorer EPC energy efficiency ratings will be particularly badly hit.
You told me you have emailed, messaged and called Ovo for nine months and, until recently, it had done nothing to help.
In your last contact with the company in February, you finally discovered that the £1,000 charge was incurred by the previous tenants of the property.
But even though you provided Ovo with a tenancy agreement to prove the date you moved in, it told you the issue wouldn’t be sorted until May.
CRANE ON THE CASE
Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackle reader problems and shine the light on companies doing both good and bad.
Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:
This is a problem as you and your housemates are moving out in April. And anyway, why it would take three months to make a simple amendment to your balance is beyond me.
As you handle the bills for the house, you are rightly worried that leaving without paying could get you in hot water. You could be chased by debt collectors and damage your credit rating.
I spoke to Ovo to find out what was going on and why the bill couldn’t be sorted in good time.
It said that, because of a technical issue, the change of tenancy wasn’t recorded on its systems – it thought the previous tenants were still in the property, even though you had informed them when you moved in.
It has created a new account with the correct move-in date and the correct balance, wiping the £1,000 charge. It has also paid you £100 to apologise for its mistake.
A spokesperson said: ‘We’re very sorry for the delay in fixing her issue. We can confirm a new account has been opened which reflects the correct balance.’
I’m glad Ovo has seen the light and made this right. It’s just a shame it has taken so much time and my involvement to sort quicker.
Painful process: Reader Russell’s property, which is rented out to an osteopathy clinic, had its power supply disconnected – and getting the issue resolved proved a struggle
Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list
Every week, I look at the companies who have fallen short when it comes to customer service, and those who have gone above and beyond.
Miss: BES Utilities Reader Russell has also found his energy sapped due to dealings with a utility company.
He is the landlord of a commercial property in the Midlands, which he rents out to tenants for use as an osteopathy clinic.
In February, new tenants moved in and all was going fine – until two weeks later when the electricity was cut off by supplier BES Utilities, leaving the business unable to trade.
Russell felt he couldn’t charge his tenants rent after the lights went out and rendered the clinic unusable, so is missing out on hundreds of pounds a month.
He said: ‘We have provided all the info requested by BES and even offered to pay the reconnection fee, but the people we talk to on the phone do not seem to have the power to move things on and now BES has stopped replying to our emails.’
The issue related to a bill from November 2021 which the previous tenants had neglected to pay.
When Russell first diagnosed the problem in December, he informed BES immediately that the non-paying tenants were no longer in situ.
He added: ‘We completed the relevant documentation as requested by BES and were assured the new tenants could take over the contract.
‘We were told to ignore any more letters addressed to the previous tenant and that the disconnection procedure would be halted.’
Lights out: The power supply to the clinic was cut off when a previous tenant didn’t pay bills
But that did not happen. I contacted BES to ask what was going on and when the issue would be resolved.
A spokesperson said: ‘Like all commercial energy suppliers, to protect our customers from bearing the cost of change of tenancy fraud, we have in place a clear policy setting out the information we need when verifying a change in responsibility.
‘This is available on our website and provided whenever we are notified of a potential change of ownership or occupancy.
‘In this case, the previous tenant had accrued a substantial debt that had been escalated due to non-payment.
‘When we were contacted by [Russell] in December, we advised him of the process he would need to follow and the information we needed to update our records; however, unfortunately it was not until after the supply had been disconnected that we were eventually provided with the relevant evidence.’
Although Russell thought he had provided all the information needed, it appears that this may not have been the case.
But that does not excuse the painful customer service experience, which meant it took some time to get to the bare bones of the issue and cost the osteopathy business several weeks of trade.
BES has now reconnected the supply and also paid Russell a sum of money as a goodwill gesture, though it asked him not to disclose the amount to me.
Hopefully this means Russell can resume his rent collection and the tenants can crack on with running their business.
Key to success: Timpson was helpful when our reader Joan wanted to return an engraved door sign she ordered, which had turned up damaged
Hit: Timpson Reader Joan wrote to tell us about her good experience with shoe repair, key cutting and engraving business, Timpson.
She said: ‘I ordered a slate door sign from Timpson and when it arrived it was chipped. I contacted them via an online contact form, explaining the problem and offering to send them photos of the damage.
‘I got an email the next day apologising, saying a replacement sign would be ordered and sent within the next few days. They didn’t ask for proof of damage or for the damaged sign to be returned.’
It appears Timpson has found the key to keeping its customers happy, and we are always glad to hear a firm being rated rather than slated.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.