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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Energy firms slammed over bills
Gas ring
Common complaints involve inaccurate or late bills
Electricity and gas suppliers have been accused of complacency regarding customer billing complaints.

Consumer group Energywatch says companies receive about 60 million queries each year, with most people complaining about inaccurate bills.

The Energy Retail Association, which represents companies, says it is working hard to improve the presentation and accuracy of bills.

Energy industry representatives will meet this week to address the problems.

According to Energywatch, figures provided by electricity and gas suppliers show about a third of their customers query their bills every quarter.

Late bills

In addition to inaccuracies, most complaints involve late bills.

The consumer group claims that some customers have not been contacted for years and then receive demands for thousands of pounds.

In August Energywatch North West urged people to check their gas and electricity bills after an increase in complaints.

The group said it received about 400 calls a week from worried customers.

The group discovered that about 798,000 of 3.8 million homes in the region had incorrectly estimated bills last year.

Hundreds of readers sent us their experiences of trouble with energy bills.

We have been getting bills from British Gas for the last 3 months and now a disconnection notice. The problem is our gas is supplied by PowerGen, and we are paying their bills. British Gas don't seem able to sort it out after many calls.
Martin, Fleet, Hants

It took me 12 months to get an energy bill from my energy supplier despite numerous calls and letters. The only way I got one was the go through Energywatch. I urge you if you have a problem to contact Energywatch as they are very very helpful. I even ended up getting almost 200 knocked off my bill for inconvenience!
Stu, Leeds

British gas are the worst of the lot, for 4 years they sent us bills for about 4000 per quarter - the bills were actually for the gas usage by the fire station down the road. Literally hundreds of letters and phone calls and still nothing was done. Swalec are pretty terrible too.
Jessica, Cardiff

After moving into a brand new house it took my gas provider 13 months to send me a gas bill, which was 180 (not bad for 13 months). Next bill arrives, also for 180. They assumed that I used the same amount of gas as the previous bill. It took them another 6 months to sort it out. I now check every bill religiously because I don't trust them
Geraint Morris, Milton Keynes, England

Too many problems to recount to be honest across every form of energy supply and several companies. The larger the companies are, the more inept they seem to be.
Helen, Denbighshire UK

I am happy with my meter only being read once a year. I am happy paying by direct debit. Energy is considerably cheaper than when the supply and generating companies were in public hands. The trouble is the supply companies have failed to appreciate there are those who prefer to pay for exactly what they have used once a quarter by cash. It costs the customer considerably more - but if customers wish to throw away money for this service perhaps they should be allowed to. It keeps someone in a job at the post office if nothing else.
Ian Sharp, Holmfirth West Yorkshire

When I moved into my flat 5 years ago there was a key meter for both the gas and electricity. I immediately had them changed to normal meters and went onto British Gas's dual fuel DD scheme. For years I had British Gas sending me new key cards for a gas key meter I did not have, & continually phone and mail me to find out why I was using gas but no payment was made on the key meter. At one point they asked me to prove that I did not have a key meter !!!. Meanwhile, on the DD system they were taking the money for the electricity but not the gas as they had not told me that they were not collecting it as they thought I was a key meter account. When I finally realised and sorted things out I owed them over two years gas bills. They offered me 20 for my aggravation. I had finally had enough, so I moved to Scottish Power. British Gas told them that I was a key meter customer and I had to sort out the whole thing again !!!. Pathetic.
andy, london

Changing supplier doesn't solve the problem. I've done this and have yet to receive an accurate bill from Seaboard in 2 years. I've tried the usual tactics of speaking to managers only and keep getting assured of a rectification within two weeks, but these are hollow words. Buyer beware!
John Glennon, Liverpool, UK

I wish Brendan (at Widnes) was right. I changed supplier after endless efforts at trying to get an accurate electricity bill from nPower proved fruitless. nPower still didn't give me a settlement bill after a number of reminders. It was only after copying my correspondence to Energywatch that nPower finally sent a bill. Was the final bill accurate? - What do you think?.............
Adrian Beck, Cheltenham, Glos

Energywatch have a great knack for blowing things way out of proportion with energy companies, the recent price hike scaremongering was proof that consumers can think of themselves and make their own choices. What some people fail to realise is that although they are quite within their right to expect decent service, they must accept that THEY are responsible for making sure that the energy they are using is paid for, (or they have the money to hand if they have not received a bill), and not just ignore it just because they've not had a bill. All it takes is a phone call, an opening and current reading, a small amount of patience and a level head. You can't expect to use the energy in your property for free. If Energywatch actually looked at the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, they'd soon change their tune. Rant over
Dave, South Wales

I had a property which was unoccupied and hence not using gas. I was passed on to a debt recovery agency who insisted I pay an estimated bill even though I obviously hadn't used any gas. Needless to say I didn't pay.
Rob, Walsall

NPower never once read either my Gas or Electricity meters while they were my service provider. They then demanded that I pay estimated bills, which I refused to do, pointing out that the problem was of their own making by virtue of the fact that they didn't know what my correct usage was during the period concerned. Their response was to employ a Debt Collection Agency to try to force me to pay up.
Tony, Wakefield

I moved into my current property 3 years ago on Monday. Ever since then my gas bills have been over 160 a quarter. My property is a one bedroom flat with 5 radiators, gas central heating and a gas cooker. My heating is on for 4 hours a day in the midst of winter and much less in the summer and I cook food in the house perhaps 3 times a week at most. I have complained to British Gas repeatedly but every time I speak to someone they tell me something completely different to the last person I spoke to and really don't show any understanding of the situation or a willingness to help.
My mum lives in a 4 bedroom detached house and she uses her gas much more than I do both for heating and cooking and yet her bill for a comparative quarter was just 50!
My dad lives in a 5 bedroom detached bungalow and again he uses his heating and cooker (both gas fired) much more than I do and again his bills are miniscule compared to mine.
Its got to the point with them now where I owe a ridiculous amount of money but I have managed to put off paying them until now but its coming to a head. I really don't know what to do next. I feel at a loss as I have absolutely no trust in the company, their billing process, the way they work out my bills or their level of customer service (they have promised me numerous times to call back and yet haven't).
Stephen Buck, Warrington, UK

Stephen Buck wants to get a grip. Why don't you turn every gas appliance off and see if the meter moves. If it does, there's a leak. If not use each appliance individually till you find where its going. Don't just sit there, no-one else will sort this out, its down to you to use your head.
richard white, welwyn, herts

to all you people with problems ,there is a simple answer----change supplier it takes 5 minutes and then your former provider must give you a bill ,let your new provider do the chasing that's what it did, and never looked back
brendan, widnes

When I moved house last year it took 4 months, hours of phone calls and a complaint to Energy Watch to get my electricity bill sorted out. The problem was that the supplier had an estimated opening meter reading of 1 unit, despite me giving an actual opening reading on the day I moved in, then subsequently tried to charge me for the 6000+ units on the meter. I just couldn't get through to them that a house that was neither new, nor had a new meter fitted, can't possibly have an opening reading of 1 and I doubted my whole street used 6000 units in the 3 months they were billing me for! Perhaps if the call centres were based in the UK instead of overseas it would be easier to rectify problems over the phone.
natalie doncaster, Peterborough, UK

Compared with some people, I've not got much to complain about... (I'm with British Gas for both my gas and electricity)... However, every bill I get is estimated. Then I phone up the automated service with my correct meter reading - fine; along comes a new bill based on this. But when my next bill comes, it always says 'Your last bill was based on an estimate...' Grrrrrr!!!
Kitty, Leicester, UK

I switched from British Gas to Powergen in August and now receive two bills for the same period. Both claim to supply my gas. Transco have been unable to confirm which is my correct supplier. Despite numerous calls neither company has been able to resolve and both are threatening to cut me off if I don't pay. I think Brendan from Widnes got lucky with his switch as my problems only started when I tried to save myself a few pounds.
Damen Parker, Towcester, Northants

Energy bills 'should be clearer'
10 Jul 04  |  Business
Energy bill complaints increase
24 Aug 04  |  England
Q&A: Changing energy supplier
25 Aug 04  |  Business
MPs to launch gas price inquiry
17 Sep 04  |  Business

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