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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2005, 17:29 GMT
Powergen inflicts inflated bills
Bill from Powergen
A huge bill for one Powergen customer
Hundreds of people in Eastern England who buy their gas and electricity from Powergen have complained about grossly inflated bills.

The BBC TV news programme, Look East, has been inundated with complaints from viewers, receiving more than 200 in the past few days.

One woman in Norfolk has been sent a bill for 59,000. Another customer, in Suffolk, was asked for 6,800.

A spokeswoman for Powergen said she knew of only 5 or 6 problem bills.

She explained: "There has been an issue in upgrading our systems, moving all our customers onto a single database."

She added that there had been a few teething problems with the billing system after Powergen bought the regional power supplier TXU.

Huge inaccuracies

Many customers have been describing the problems they have had.

It was an awful fright. My bank manager rang me up and asked me if I was sitting down
Liz Gibson-Harries, Eye, Suffolk

Liz Gibson-Harries lives in a small 15th-century cottage in the small town of Eye, in Suffolk.

In May she got a bill for 6,800. Powergen admitted it was a mistake. But a few weeks later she got another one for 5,800.

She says: "It was an awful fright. My bank manager rang me up and asked me if I was sitting down. He called me because I pay by direct debit but there was far less than that in my account, otherwise it would have all gone."

Her normal quarterly bill is just 70 for electricity.

Here are some other stories:

  • Peter Adams, a retired surveyor from Sheringham in Norfolk got a bill for 1,200 in August when it should have been more like 300.
  • Alan Hinchy from Thrapston, also in Northants, was billed for more than 2,000. He says it was very difficult to get Powergen to accept they were wrong.
  • Michael Sawyer from Haddenham near Ely in Cambridgeshire was asked to pay an estimated bill of 3,500 going back nearly two years, despite having paid quarterly bills of more than 200 each.
  • Carol Buttriss of Walpole Marsh near Wisbech in Cambridgeshire received a demand for 1,813 after being told she was in credit.
  • Julie Stephens from Letchworth in Hertfordshire also received a backdated bill - for five years - amounting to 1,680. She kept all her previous bills to prove she has paid.

Demand for 59,182.88

In all these cases the customers believe the bills are simply wrong - and in fact grossly inaccurate.

Perhaps the bill is for the light house on the edge of the cliff!
Hilary Bayfield, Happisburgh, Norfolk

Two common themes of their complaints are that the Powergen customer service department in India is unable to help.

And it seems that the company has sometimes blamed the meter reading firm Siemens for misreading their meters or not passing on the readings.

However the biggest bill that has come to light puts all the others in the shade.

Mrs Hilary Bayfield, from the seaside village of Happisburgh in Norfolk, was asked in September to pay 59,182.88.

This is for a house in which she uses oil for heating and cooking.

"I was amazed," she said.

"Perhaps the bill is for the light house on the edge of the cliff!"

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