More haunting tales of energy suppliers to chill the blood

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Readers were enthralled by my recent suspense drama on the theme of energy supply, so here are more haunting tales to chill your blood as you hunch over cold radiators.

Act 1

On a dark and stormy night, VJ of Leeds discovered that she was locked out of her British Gas app. When she complained, she was told that British Gas had changed her name and email address to Julie and, because she couldn’t prove she was Julie, she was no longer officially a customer.

Not that this identity crisis prevented British Gas from helping itself to her direct debits, which it had increased threefold. VJ understandably feared she was being billed for a stranger’s consumption.

British Gas assured her that it was receiving readings from her smart meter. VJ doesn’t have a smart meter, and couldn’t submit meter readings herself because she was locked out of her app on account of not being Julie. And she wasn’t receiving bills because British Gas had changed her email address to the mysterious Julie’s.

That’s as far as she had got over seven months when she contacted me. The scientific term for what followed is “gaslighting”!

British Gas admitted a stranger’s name and email address had been erroneously added to her account, but insisted she has not been paying for the stranger’s energy consumption because she has smart meters. Only when I sent photos of her meters did it agree that she does not.

It reinstated her name on the account, whereupon VJ received a letter from debt collection firm, BW Legal, demanding she pay an undated £183 owed to British Gas. British Gas simultaneously told me it knew nothing about any debt collection letter, and that the letter it knew nothing about related to an account with VJ’s previous, now defunct, energy supplier. That account was actually in credit when British Gas inherited it as Supplier of Last Resort.

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British Gas then claimed its name must have been put on the letter in error. I queried this with BW Legal, whereupon British Gas suddenly recollected that it had, indeed, instructed the firm to recover the debt.

It now claims it was accrued when it briefly supplied VJ’s account after yet another of her suppliers went bust 18 months ago, and has written it off as a goodwill gesture.

The case is now in the hands of the Energy Ombudsman service which can, hopefully, discover whose fuel VJ is paying for.

Act 2

For three years, Scottish Power insisted that SR was a company and charged her an expensive business rate. In vain did she argue that she was a woman heating her own Glasgow home. And in vain did she try to switch to a green supplier which could not accept a transfer of a business account.

To her relief, the Energy Ombudsman identified serious service shortfalls and ordered Scottish Power to implement 10 remedies within 28 days, including a substantial refund.

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Seven months on, not one had been done. SR twice contacted the ombudsman, who blithely told her Scottish Power was experiencing “technical issues” and left her to face uncapped energy costs, and the scuppering of her planned house sale.

Scottish Power told me a “system issue” had prevented it obeying the ombudsman’s ruling. Luckily, that seven-month glitch was resolved within a week of my contact.

Scottish Power added goodwill credit to SR’s new domestic account – then socked her with an erroneous demand for £5,500.

When I asked the ombudsman about its inertia, it said: “We are aware that some consumers are having to wait too long and we are working with suppliers and Ofgem to improve this for consumers.”

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Act 3

EDF has shacked SD of Sheffield up with a new partner. He’s called Mr Unknown Unknown. Mr Unknown Unknown lives at SD’s address, according to EDF, and is not good at paying his bills.

Demands began to arrive at SD’s home. Coincidentally, the debt was the exact same sum that SD had recently paid to cover the months between her old supplier going bust and EDF taking on her account.

When SD called to query her phantom lodger, EDF promptly substituted her name for Mr Unknown Unknown’s and threatened court action over an account that doesn’t exist. Only when I burst on to the stage did EDF admit that it had erroneously opened a duplicate account for the address, and that it had failed to address the mistake when SD complained.

Act 4

LH doesn’t exist. For four years she’s tried desperately to pay for her energy, but, because she doesn’t exist, no one wants her money.

Her Worcestershire property fell off the radar in 2008 when Scottish Power installed a new meter and forgot to register it. That gave the previous owners a decade of free gas, a situation they were quite happy with.

LH, on the other hand, has tried to sign up to every major supplier since buying the house in 2018, but none will have her because it’s not on the industry database.

Scottish Power eventually agreed it bore the responsibility. Every now and then, one department would generate a pro forma number and another department would reject it, leaving LH unable to sell her home.

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Scottish Power set up an account for LH when I mentioned all the dosh it was missing out on. It’s added a goodwill payment and will not bill her for any of her previous gas usage.

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