Sunday, November 13, 2011

UK Utilities - Your letter, was only the start of it....

"Dear Mr. Boak

We've checked your GAS account as it's important that we make sure your monthly payments are enough to cover your energy costs. Based on what we expect you to use before your next annual review date, we recommend that your current monthly Direct Debit amount be increased to £101.00. Here's how we've worked it out........."

It is hard to put into words the deep contempt and loathing I have for the UK Utility Companies -

Never before have these faceless corporations owned by untouchables, run by ruthless management and staffed by the wholly incompetent - had so much freedom to run roughshod over their customer base - the gullible.

This current protest about their business methods was initiated earlier this week by a letter from Southern Electric, the opening paragraph above, suggesting that it was my responsibility to ensure that I was paying sufficient funds by monthly direct debit to cover the cost of gas that I will use over the current heating season.

I currently had been paying £80 per month, up from £70 in July, and they suggested that it would be prudent on my part to increase these payments by 26.25% to £101 per month, so that the extra £21 would cover their predicted balance on my bill of £165.20 - next July at the time of my next review.

Now there's not much that gets past me regarding my domestic gas consumption. I have daily records of consumption going back 11 years, which show that the average consumption over the last 5 years, showing that my annual consumption has not exceeded 19,000 kWh and has averaged at 16600kWh.

So why is it that Southern Electric suddenly want to effectively charge me for 29,283 kWh for the next 12 months - when clearly my existing payments have been more than enough to cover past and current gas costs - including the latest increases? Is my property overnight going to see a 75% increase in gas consumption - I think not.

So I thought I'd look into why Southern Electric think I owe them more money. I got online and checked my last gas bill - dated 22nd July 2011.

Based on an estimated meter reading (10991) you owe us £55.66.

Now I was on holiday in late July when the bill arrived, and so did not query this estimate, nor the accompanying letter which said that they were going to raise my monthly payments from £70 to £80 - based on this shortfall.

However, the actual meter reading on July 22nd, just before I left on holiday, was 10263.

Based on this actual reading - and instead of their stated 16524 kWh bill - I had actually only used 8418 kWh - and had they bothered to read my meter, my bill would have been over £200 in credit!!

So lack of one real meter reading in the summer, and they increase my payments from £70 to £80, and now they wish to increase to £101! Based on what - Corporatee greed - one would have to assume?

Perhaps if they just looked at my account they would see that I am now £254.34 in credit - which at my usual winter consumption rate - based on 5 years of experience, will last me all of November, all of December and two weeks into January before I owe them a penny!

Now fortunately, I have more than a passing interest in domestic energy, I know how to convert meter readings to express both electricity and gas quantities in kWh - so I'm generally pretty street wise about what's going on in my home energy consumption.

However, if I was elderly, frail or a pensioner on limited means, the approach that Southern Electric has taken with me would scare the living daylights out of them - monthly payments increasing from £70 to £80 to £101 in just 5 months - and threatening me that I will be £165 in debt to them next July unless I pay up.

This is outlandish behaviour on the part of Southern Electric, and clearly their usage and tariff prediction systems are not fit for purpose. If through a single badly estimated meter reading they get my bill so, so wrong - what chance have they got of getting anything else right?

They are running rough-shod over their customer base, using them as a cash-cow to hedge against rising fuel costs. If Southern Electric are playing this fiddle - then you can assume that it's rife across the whole of the 6 monopolies.

These operation malpractices need national exposure - where the fuck is OFGEM and WTF are they doing about it?

If you agree with the sentiments aired in this blog post - I suggest you tweet it widely - so we can bring this scandalous behaviour of the UK Energy Utility companies to the public arena.

1 comment:

ciaran.mooney said...

Cannot agree more.

Over the years no matter which company I've been with has always over-estimated by a significant amount (£100s over a year) that we are likely to consume.

This is the behavioural norm for many of the energy suppliers rather than it being a single case of greed.