2022-11-27

Gas & Electric

I really am at a loss as to quite how bad energy companies seem to be.

They basically have one job - charge for the gas and electricity you use. With smart meters it is really easy as they have access to the data from the meter. Without, they need meter readings, from customers or by sending someone round.

But the basic business processes seem blindingly simple. They are selling two things, gas an electricity, And there is a meter that tracks the actual usage. The bills should be simple.

OK I know there is other admin, getting meters changed, credit control, etc, but the basic billing is noddy.

Some are being a tad cleverer, like Octopus. The first time I was with them, in my previous house, was when smart meters were dumb if you changed provider, so was a bit of a mess, but this time they have the data - half hour readings, usually within a day of real time, and visible to me. They also seem to be very responsive at sorting any questions or issues. This does allow them to be a bit more innovative with tariffs. When I was a kid we had economy seven, with a timer on the meter to switch metering between the two settings. We had a storage heater on the cheap night-time electricity. These days they can do a rate per half hour even, and there is export now as well. But even so, it is really not rocket science.

So how the hell is it that some of them seem to be so incredibly bad at it? Pretty much every company I have been with (perhaps with exception of Octopus this time) has screwed up in one way or another.

The latest is So.Energy

Now, don't get me wrong, I know there can be screw ups, but at the end of the day this is such a simple thing to bill you just have to put the correct meter reading in and you can fix it. A simple job. So the really annoying screwing up is when they not only get things wrong, but totally fail to even try and fix it, and instead send "overdue account" and "final demand" emails.

Leaving So.Energy should be simple. I gave them, and Octopus, the meter reading for Gas on the day, and both used that, and the gas is right. Yay. It proves how simple this really is. The gas was not on smart meter.

But the bit that should be easier, the electricity that was on a smart meter, was not. Octopus actually used the meter reading I gave them. They also had smart meter readings from a couple of days later. Good.

But So.Energy did not, they had not billed for a couple of months. They kept asking for a meter reading to be entered on their web site, in spite of being a smart meter, but the site would not allow me to enter an import reading unless I also entered export (this was after they finally fixed their site asking for 7 separate electricity readings for the meter). The meter itself would not show export, so I could not comply. But remember, it is a smart meter, so they have the actual readings anyway.

When they finally raised bills, what should they do? Well, simple use the smart meter reading for the dates I left, for import and export, simple.

What did they actually do - they did a bill for import, using a smart meter reading for import, for the day I left. They then cancelled that bill, and raised a new one with a "closing read" (not a "smart meter read", or a "customer read", or even an "estimate") that was way higher - more than £100 higher.

What about export, albeit at a measly 5p/unit? Well, they should have just used the smart meter reading. Octopus used the smart meter reading for the day they took over (as I could not see on the meter itself) which was great, so it was available. What So.Energy did was estimate a closing meter reading, saving them around £200.

Using made up meter readings, especially when they demonstrate they have the actual meter reading (at least for import), seems to be to be straight forward criminal fraud, a lie for financial gain.

Fixing it?

Let's be generous for a moment, and assume it was some idiot typing something daft, OK. The first I heard was "overdue account", for a bill dated when I left even though the bill was not on their web site before, so back dated. So I let them know the error, and advised the actual meter readings for import and export.

This the point that they could perhaps have redeemed themselves by cancelling those bills and issuing a correct bill. What could be simpler. If their web site had actually allowed me to enter import without export, of the meter had showed export, they would have used the reading I provided, as they did for gas, so this is no different.

But no, more demands, and a final demand. Each time I told them the error of their ways and got no more than an automated reply.

I messaged on twitter and they said they complaints dept was dealing with it - it is over two week later and nothing - no message even to say complaints are looking in to it and no new bills. I also explained that hounding me to pay a disputed and fraudulent bill was harassment. They said it was not, just telling me what was due and what would happen if I did not pay (further action), which I explained was in fact harassment. They tried to excuse it as automated, and I pointed out that automated harassment is still harassment. Interestingly nothing heard since (a week now) so maybe they turned it off.

Evidence

There is a chance they try and "take further action", which will be interesting. But as they owe me for the export I can make that a counter claim for that, as well as filing a defence that their claim is based on a fraudulent bill. Their own original bill (that they later cancelled) proves they had the import star meter reading for the day I left, so making up a different reading really looks like fraud to me.

But what would be handy is some incontrovertible evidence of the actual usage, so I have sent a GDPR request for the meter readings to Smart DCC Ltd who managed UK smart meter data. Hopefully they can furnish me with the detailed reading. Readings that So.Energy could have gotten and have ignored. It will be interesting to confirm Smart DCC Ltd actually hold the data (they have not said they don't), and that I can get the data. I'll update if/when I get the data.

I should not have to have this hassle or harassment - it really should be simple!

In the mean time...

It gets worse! Bulb

I just got a bill from Bulb for £14k for usage from over 2 years ago. Thankfully this is pretty simple as OFGEM rules say you cannot back date billing more than a year. But still, I should not have to deal with this crap!

14 comments:

  1. I once worked for a place that provided a pay-by-phone/app service for one of the smaller energy companies. They were supposed to provide us with a CSV file containing details of all their customers. It took them several months to provide one that was actually complete. How did I know it wasn't complete? Because I was one of their customers, and I wasn't in the list! It was quite enlightening.

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  2. Someone once said: You can tell a good company from a bad company by the way they handle problems.

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  3. Note: this nightmare is coming from one of the *good* providers, who rescued God knows how many people from imploded disastrously bad energy companies and was pulled in to sort out some of their messes (I was unlucky enough to be a victim of one of the first, "Iresa", a company which sold cheap and got suddenly popular because -- it later emerged -- it was set up by a Scottish-Nigerian IT "entrepreneur" under a false name, and since he had zero experience with energy companies and plenty of experience being bankrupted and banned from being a company director he did what he knew and set this one up on the cheap and wrecked it too. They had one single person on customer service (ten hour long phone queues), couldn't even manage people switching *in*, never mind out, and couldn't even keep accounts, entirely losing track of their customer list, never mind how much they'd paid. So managed to chase them into letting me switch away, God only knows how. I felt like I'd been released from jail.)

    I suspect So got overextended and their entire troubleshooting team got sucked over into sorting out messes of this sort of whole-company-disaster magnitude, leaving none for their actual customers. I further suspect they haven't had many switchers with both export and import figures, hence the huge number of sharp edges you're tripping over and the fact that the website's not set up for it at all... and of course every provider I've had in the last fifteen years has tried to scam you with way higher 'estimated' bills, even if you did a reading a day earlier; the resulting overcharging means you're hundreds of quid in credit permanently and of course *they* get all the interest on that). The terrible way they're handling the messup is, of course, on them...

    Energy market deregulation was meant to be the one shining jewel of privatization, working really well, unlike, say, the trains. Can anyone say that any more?

    (I'm honestly amazed that the ISP market deregulation worked as well as it did. Forcing BT to unbundle the local loop *worked*, as everyone here obviously knows. We have actual competition, unlike, say, that beacon of monopsonies, the US. I do wonder if it only worked by chance. Clearly UK governments aren't competent to *design* a privatization that works.)

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    Replies
    1. The ISP market is different though as there is scope to provide different levels of service. Energy market deregulation is merely a haggling game designed to rip off unwary consumers. There is no difference in the product recieved

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    2. Agreed. The ISP market may seem a bit contrived, since (without LLU) you're still using most of the same infrastructure to get packets between your house and the internet, but I'd much rather have the choice to use companies like A&A instead of some nationalised, government-boot-licking monopoly who will be only too happy to censor and snoop on our traffic according to the whims of ministers and civil servants.

      With energy, it's just a choice of who you pay your bill to, and perhaps how much information you can extract from your smart meter.

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  4. Andrews & Arnold will be offering energy before long knowing what you're capable of doing. Hell, work with Octopus just as other energy suppliers have started doing - perhaps as some type of channel partner/white label for business customers.

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    Replies
    1. I just want A&A to start a bank.

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    2. What I would be very glad of would be if Andrews and Arnold could reliably and exactly read and enable accessible archiving of a smart meter in my home.

      Is this possible with what Meter? Either with A&A acting as meter readers forwarding what has been used when to the electricity billers or as an independent check from a separate meter registering in parallel with whatever might be
      one that would come in connection with a supplier.

      Is the supply of meters, installing and reading them still reserved to the successors to the area boards that were before privatisation or is it open to any meter and anything to do with it that is up to the public standards established
      by government regulation?

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    3. This is an in home display (https://shop.glowmarkt.com)that can get live data from smart meters and send to MQTT, and there is an app (Bright) that gets data from DCC from smart meter (half hour) as a third party data collection, so there are ways to get the data independent of your power provider.

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  5. Police will just say it's a civil matter not a crime. As they do for almost everything one reports. Helps keep their crime statistics low.

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    Replies
    1. When a car drove into my front wall and demolished it I was told the police couldn't do anything because it was a traffic crime and I didn't get the numberplate. Yeah because I stay up all night waiting for someone to knock my wall over at 6am so I can note their numberplate down...

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    2. Quite, Fraud is defined as a crime, and offence, and so the police need to act, just as in that case. But to be honest I have several cameras - not suer I'd catch that case though - maybe I need a few more.

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  6. You would be amazed by how many customers the energy companies seem incapable of actually billing. A friend works for one such company (a big one) that shall remain nameless and has a targeted quarterly goal of getting their unbilled customers down to the low single digit %s.

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  7. My electricity bill has been hopelessly wrong for about 15 years, ever since the meter was changed. I have tried four times to get it corrected and given up. The error is substantially in my favour, and with the new rules saying they can't recover more than a year of mis-billing if it was in my favour I'm not pursuing it further. I have the evidence that I tried, four times. One meter reading man even said "don't tell me how to do my job" when I tried to explain.

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