Monday, 23 September 2013

Utility Nightmares

We watch Watchdog on the BBC, and last week there was a feature on N Power and their poor treatment of customers, I have experienced this from them. It also reminded me that in my first ever post I said I would write about how to get services and utilities you want in a rented place and I haven't done it yet! Completely forgot about it, so I'll do this one then a series on other rental specific issues with services and utilities. 

Update: 26/9/13 -  I got a letter from N Power on Tuesday, saying thank you for contacting us about your energy account we will change the account into your name. Dated last what? Our account should've closed in January! Rang them up yesterday to be told they are still working out the bills, as the meter reading on 10th Nov last year was not believed to be correct...Wait WHAT no DECEMBER our account was opened I don't care about what happened in November because we Deep breaths don't shout. They had lost the meter reading again and had our account as opened from November last year...I lost it. I did apologise to the guy but I just cannot believe it. I've given the opening reading to them AGAIN (I kept it as we had never had the final bill) and the bloke I spoke to has raised an official complaint on my behalf. They drive me to like actual rage, why is is so hard to just send me a bill?!

Update 29/10/13 - I got a letter on 3/10 before we went on holiday (to the wrong address) asking us to contact them for more information. I emailed them as it was too late to ring by the time I opened the letter and we were going on holiday the next day. So I sent an email to say I was going away, I had told them I was going away over the phone the week before, something along the lines of please god do not ring me while I am on holiday just correct the address and send me a goddamn bill. I got a letter when we got home (again to the wrong address) saying they had tried to ring me (while I was on holiday) and needed me to ring them, well I tried last week, twice, waited on hold for nearly an hour in total, then gave up. Then the other day I get another letter (addressed to me at the right address - progress!) in response to my email 3 weeks ago, saying sorry, my complaint has been recognised and they will contact me by email from now on. no bill. nothing since then via post or email. It's just getting beyond a joke now, I give up. 
If we ever get this bill do you think they'll wait 10 months for payment? 

Disputes with utility companies
We have had problems at 2 properties, but with the same company (guess who). It was really due to lack of experience the first time at our first maisonette, I didn’t realise we could change! They were trying to charge us over £100 a month for electricity alone (the place had gas heating and hot water!). I kept sending meter readings and they kept saying they were incorrect. They once sent us a massive bill saying it was accurate as a meter reader had been out, although neither of us had let them in to read the meter (it was inside the property) they would not concede that they may had read the gas meter by accident (which was outside) or the wrong meter altogether (maybe for the maisonette downstairs). In the end when we moved I left them our final meter reading which they still said was wrong, and told them if they wanted to send someone out they’d have to take that up with the letting agents as we were moving out that day. We received a cheque in the post a few weeks later for a refund and went on a weekend break to London with the money (it was quite a considerable amount). I felt vindicated that they had refunded us, but we never received an apology or any admission of fault from them. We should really have changed supplier long before we moved out, do not feel like to have to battle on with an expensive or unreasonable company just because they supplied the place when you moved in.
I have never gone back to that company again although every place I move into seems to be with them, I think it’s punishment for my sins. At the 2 places after this the first bill was very expensive before we moved to another company. Not that bad but a bit of a pain considering I swore never to deal with them again moving out of the maisonette, only to discover the new house used them!
Then at our current place I rang them to set up the account and give them opening meter reading on 1st December, the day we moved in. They then just completely lost the plot with our bills. 
  • We kept getting bills addressed to ‘the occupier’ for weeks, from before we moved in, but extending into after we had moved in (like Oct-Dec). I needed a bill for after we moved in, and they needed to send anything from before that to the landlord.
  • I rang them to query these bills, they had no record of the account or the meter reading I had waited on hold for over 30 minutes to give them when setting up the account, the customer service person said I must not have done it. I'm sorry, I know I'm not the cleverest person sometimes but I know I had set up the account, and my phone bill that month for the over 30 minute premium rate call served as a good reminder. So had a rant about why their company was so incompetent, apologised for shouting at the customer service girl on Christmas eve (I hate that, I get it at work, and it’s not personally her fault) and I set it all up again giving them the opening reading again.
  • We had already registered with another company and I was just waiting for the changeover date so I could give them the closing reading and be done with them. We got this midway through January and I gave them the closing meter reading and was assured a bill would be on the way to us.
  • I have still not had the final bill. We had a few more incorrect bills addressed to ‘the occupier’ for the wrong time periods and not with the meter readings I had provided, then nothing for months. I rang them each time we got an incorrect bill and numerous times chasing up the last bill, on a premium number and waiting on hold etc usual story when calling places like this. Every time I rang I was told that the correct bill would come eventually, and to disregard any ones not addressed to me, so that’s what I've done.
  •  I sent in a complaint to their customer service email documenting all of this and am keeping the response (same again saying the bill will come eventually) to show that I tried in case they say I didn't pay or something, all I want is the correct bill so I can pay it but they seem to be in no rush so I'm not going to keep calling them, this was over 9 months ago.

I refuse to chase them any more to send me a bill, the gas was simple (British Gas – always very good have used them before just found a cheaper supplier this time), ring with opening meter readings, then new supplier takes over and we send them a closing meter reading, they send us a bill, we pay. Why the electricity could not be this simple is beyond me.
I would not recommend N Power, but if you have similar problems some tips are:
  • Change supplier if they are a major hassle, unless they’re really cheap and you are willing to put up with it because of this. You should definitely compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal and not being overcharged, there are loads of price comparison websites for this. Other companies we have used are way less trouble, we just pay the bills, give them meter readings occasionally and sometimes we even build up a bit of credit.
  • If you are having problems and you call them to query things or complain, write down the name of who you speak to, the time of the call and the date, and what you discussed. Then you have specifics if you need to make a complaint, or if they make demands on you about payment you have been told you do not need to make.
  • Keep any incorrect bills they send you and write on them when you called and what the person told you to do (with their name and the date and time).
  •  Most companies will record calls, and some will send you a transcript if you ask them to. I haven’t done this with a utility company before but have with the people I ordered my glasses from last year, ask if they offer something similar and get it emailed to you.
  •  Meter readings – If they tell you your readings are incorrect but you’re sure they’re correct, then ask them to send someone out to read it. It isn't hard to read a meter, you just read out to them what the meter says. However you never know if you might be doing something wrong, or the meter could even be faulty. If they send someone out who gets the same meter reading as you then they have no argument! Our first issue was that they had meter readings taken by someone they allegedly sent out, but our readings were less than these, so we had used negative electricity! However it was their original reading that was wrong (nobody read the meter I don’t know where they got it from) not our reading, and the bills they sent us were definitely incorrect. If someone had actually read the meter it would probably have sorted the issue out. 
  • There is a number on each meter (called a meter number funnily enough), if your readings are not tallying up with theirs make sure you are both reading the same meter by comparing what meter number you have. Make sure the number on your meter matches the one on your account. Especially if you live in a flat, or somewhere where meters are all together for different properties. 
  • Don’t pay any bills that are not addressed to you by name, and do not take responsibility for anything before you moved in – this is the responsibility of the landlord or previous tenant. Forward any unpaid bills from before you moved in to your landlord or lettings agent.
That's our story with N Power and our reasons for never.ever.ever. using them again. Have any of you had any bad experiences, share your pain in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I'm with Southern Electric for both gas and electric and have so far *touch wood* not had any problems at all with them, and I can manage everything online which suits me. They also refunded me a large amount recently as I had been over-paying on direct debit. Just need to manage the direct debit effectively over the winter period!!!