TONY HETHERINGTON: ScottishPower’s billing shambles may bankrupt us
Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
P.S. writes: I am secretary of a not-for-profit charity. ScottishPower for some reason reduced the utility payments for our premises from £748 a month to just £1. This has put us in a very difficult position, as they are still collecting only £1 but are demanding £6,529 and have refused to send a meter reader. If this is not sorted out, it will bankrupt us.
Some of the letters I get from readers are hard to believe. Some are almost impossible to believe because of what I uncover.
Your letter falls into this second bunch. Soon after you contacted me, things went from bad to worse.
The latest bill from ScottishPower shows it has still been collecting £1 a month by direct debit, but the bill says your charity now owes £24,367 for electricity used since October 2018.
And it warns that your monthly payments are to rise from £1 to an eye watering £1,490.
After an error with their energy provider, ScottishPower, once customerreceived a £24,367 bill
I have repeatedly invited ScottishPower to comment, or to offer any explanation to show why it collected so little yet ran up such a huge debt that this could close you down.
The energy giant has offered no comment and no explanation to me.
However, it has given you an explanation – and this is where things become unbelievable.
There has been a monumental foul-up in ScottishPower’s billing system and your charity is just one of the customers affected.
The company told you it had updated its billing system in 2013.
It went on: ‘When this system changed, there was a number of accounts which had been affected by this that resulted in their accounts being invoiced for a credit balance instead of a debit balance.
‘This meant that ScottishPower was paying these customers for their usage instead of the other way around.’
Since 2013, you have been paying between £400 and £700-plus a month by direct debit, but every month it looked as though your usage was far less than expected because ScottishPower was calculating the actual bill and then instead of charging you, it was crediting you.
At one point, the company even sent you more than £4,000 as a refund and cut your monthly payments to a nominal £1.
All this was ScottishPower’s own fault and it is only allowed to back-bill customers for a maximum of one year from spotting its mistakes.
The latest bill covers this period and includes snatching back the £4,000-plus that it refunded.
But even after realising what a terrible mess it had made, ScottishPower has still not got its act together.
After I contacted the company, it asked you to take meter readings daily for a week and it would then call you for them.
You took the readings, but the call never came and when you tried to phone ScottishPower you got nowhere.
You told me: ‘It seems I have wasted my time.’ And after suggesting that you could ignore bills until the company comes up with a solution, ScottishPower has just collected £1,215 from your charity’s bank account.
Perhaps ScottishPower is too embarrassed to offer any comment. Perhaps this six-year screw-up affects so many customers that it is scared to reveal the full picture. One thing is certain though.
This will not go away. Whatever it does next and however it hopes to make amends, I shall report it here.