2023-02-22

Energy companies

I am actually rather concerned over energy company billing.

I mean some are not bad, and Octopus are possibly the best, but they too have issues. But they are the gold standard compared to almost anyone else.

We (A&A) bill people for broadband and telephony and all sorts, and we try hard to make the bills clear. When mistakes or corrections or adjustments (e.g. leaving mid month) happen we issue a clear credit note to correct it and make it clear. We very carefully follow VAT rules on such things.

But I had no idea how good we were until I saw energy bills. I really think they are just unbelievably bad, and even to the point that there is systematic fraud going on (and I do not say that lightly). Either that or quite negligent levels incompetence.

I mean seriously, this is such a mess I struggle to make sense of it.

What they seem to do is re-bill some period and maybe do some sort of credit or maybe not, it is not clear. I have had British Gas bill me for several months again with no explanation why, and no actual clear credit or cancelling of specific previous bills in some way. So.Energy are just as bad.

In fact I don't think I have ever had any change of energy supplier that has not involved an error. This is pretty serious. And talking on social media, this seems common. This seems systematic.

From what I can tell there is some industry process of "handover readings" for meters. But even then, it seems to not work, and apparently there is no such process for export readings at all!

I have had a company swear blind I have to pay some new balance after leaving to a new meter reading even though the previous final bill was based on a "smart meter reading", yet somehow at the same time be adamant that the smart meter reading is not wrong. A direct contradiction that they somehow manage to hold in their head (electric monks would be proud of this). And yes, none of them understand the word "final". That case was a small amount and cancelled as "good will".

I currently have two cases with the energy ombudsman. They are the same bunch that caused me a lot of stress as an ISP, but putting that aside, so far they are sort of working.

So.Energy

This is the lesser of the problem companies of late. Their issues are simple. They were unable to make the meter show export, but they were unable to accept a meter reading without but import and export entered. So when I left them they did not have supplied closing readings from me for each. (Gas was OK).

But this was not the only problem. They had a smart meter reading for import, and raised a bill. But they cancelled that and raised a new bill with a massively higher closing reading (hundreds of pounds more). They ignored all my emails and complaints.

This new reading was totally made up and wrong. They knew it was wrong as they had a smart meter reading during the day I left. It was so wrong that in the hours since the smart meter reading, to be right, would have blown the supply fuse. I can only conclude this is criminal fraud, in my opinion, making up false data (a lie) for financial gain. Then refusing to fix it makes it worse.

They also "estimated" the export. Well, once I left, Octopus gave me a smart meter reading for export. Simple. So I told so.energy and they just ignored me.

And that was it - they would not fix - they just harassed me for payment.

What is worse? Well, I took to ombudsman and of course they agreed with me. But so.energy insisted the new made up closing reading was what octopus gave them. It was not. Octopus provided screenshots of their submissions on the industry process for this. It was a lie. A lie for financial gain, also known again as criminal fraud. They lied to the ombudsman. I have reported to Action Fraud. Surely this means directors going to prison? But no, that won't happen.

What is worse? Ombudsman told them to sort final readings. They told ombudsman they have implemented their decision. Guess what? Another lie. They have changed import final reading but not export, as ordered by ombudsman. That will be another of those lies for financial gain, also known as criminal fraud. Another case for directors to go to jail? I mean it could be incompetence but it would have to be on a monumental scale for this many errors.

I await outcome - I'll update here.

Bulb

Bulb are even more special, and this is really crazy.

I was with them a few years at my old address. And we started off OK, ish, but then they went quiet for a couple of years, no bills, just regular direct debits. No requests for meter readings. Nothing.

When I left they did a final bill, and refunded the over collected balance. I thought that was it. *final* bill paid.

But no, over two years later, a credit to cancel the final bill and a £14,000 bill, and repeated demands for payments over over £7k by email and telephone.

So I looked in to it, and they actually had charged me based on electricity from a reading of 09796 when actually final reading from previous supplier was 51485. This is a huge difference. It appears the first bill they did was from 46791, which was also wrong. How is this simple process of a reading handover so broken between suppliers.

What I also found was that the previous "final bill" (no, none of them know the meaning of "final") was they charged for a period covering more than a year. This is not allowed, not just by OFGEM rules but by their own terms and conditions. So the bill I actually paid was not valid and I am due a refund.

Of course this new £14k bill was also for usage more than 12 months before, being over 2 years after leaving them, so invalid. That is not allowed by OFGEM rules or their own terms and conditions.

If they had not done this I would not realised I had already been ripped off on the previous final bill.

So over to ombudsman, and an update will be here soon.

But their harassment is over the top - calls and emails constantly demanding money, even though they know it is with the ombudsman. I am seriously tempted to sue for compensation for the harassment once this is sorted anyway. It is very stressful.

11 comments:

  1. Scottish Power's bills are extremely confusing. And I have had accounts training and I do all the accounts for two Limited Companies, so it could be said I am competant with numbers and finances. I wonder if the bills are deliberately confusing.

    Bulb were terrible during the time I was with them. They offered and I accepted time-of-day charging with cheaper overnight rates. I spent months putting the tumble dryer on in the evening. Only to find they never actually put my time-of-day charging in place.

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  2. I too am absolutely staggered by how complicated energy company bills are. To the point I've convinced myself I must be suffering a severe case of Dunning-Kruger - I mean, it seems so simple and obvious and yet their bills are anything but which would seem to imply that, actually, billing isn't simple and obvious.
    And as for Octopus, I pull consumption from their API and yet billing based on those figures total a different amount that they show on their bills, despite the fact that their bills can only be driven by data from the exact same source.

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    Replies
    1. My octopus tariff is a simple one, so not seen that. I do wonder what will happen when I go on to a more complicated time related tariff.

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  3. Just as a counter-example, that sometimes energy companies can do the right thing - our supplier (Good Energy) recently noticed that when I switched to Direct Debits they neglected to switch me to the resulting (slightly cheaper) tariff; so, they wrote to me, explained what had happened, apologised, put me on the right tariff and refunded me all the difference.

    I hadn't even noticed.

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  4. This is one of the reasons I can't be bothered with all the aggravation of changing energy supplier. I live in a small well insulated house so there wouldn't be much saving anyway. I've been with EDF for a couple of decades, and even though I've changed nothing in all that time they still manage to bill me incorrectly at times. I'm on Economy 7 and that seems to confuse them. I'm refusing to have a smart meter installed, that would undoubtedly cause more screw ups.

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  5. Octopus are absolutely as bad as everyone else at billing, they're absolute hell on earth when it goes wrong to get things fixed again. It can take months.

    However the madness of credits and revised bills and cancelled bills is pretty common - recently at $work we had a new account with EDF. Got a first bill for £16 for some trailing days. Accounts entered it into our system. Some time later they got another bill. It's a revised bill. Different amounts. No credit for the old one. So I'm not sure how we're supposed to enter that as there is no credit note to cancel the other one off, and thus we'd have to journal the change which is far from 'fine' to be doing.

    Small amounts sure, but it really screws things up.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry to hear octopus are a problem for some, but definitely for business they have to follow HMRC VAT rules. That means a clear credit note with VAT issued. If they don't that needs reporting and fixing.

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  6. So manage this sort of screw up every single month for me. I do manual meter readings, as requested, every month -- and then two days later they bill me for an 'estimated' reading (dated two days later than the manual reading) which is usually about as high as the *next* month's actual reading is going to be. The actual readings do pin them down to something remotely sane, but still it narks me to be basically forced to pay for next month's energy in advance. (Which is no doubt the point. Oh look a month's free money from all our long-suffering customers.)

    Horrifyingly, so.energy is the least incompetent energy supplier I've had in the last decade.

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  7. Energy companies have two jobs:
    1) Provide a billing experience
    2) Hedge the market to make sure they buy enough future energy for their customers at the right price.

    It seems that they cannot do either effectively. (1) is well documented here. (2) is well documented thru' all the press articles about how many ran into financial troubles because of the change in price of energy.

    I eagerly await an A&A energy product!

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  8. There was a case where a lady took British Gas to court for harassment:

    https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2009/46.html

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  9. It's pretty ridiculous. But fairyland compared to dealing with Thames Water, who acknowledge that my council tax band is in a certain band, yet charge me a rateable value that's for the entire block, not just my flat and point blank refuse to use the correct RV. Worse, water has no normal ombudsman like energy or ISPs. This is having to go to a full court hearing...

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