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Massive final Npower bill - help!
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# 1
chris1980
Old 14-03-2013, 1:25 PM
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Default Massive final Npower bill - help!

My wife and I have been trying to switch from Npower to Southern Electric as we have been unhappy with Npower's level of service.

Npower have been blocked the switch on a couple of grounds but our problem only seems to get worse
(not to mention more complicated) every time we call them to try to sort it out. On our most recent call to them we were told to our horror that we owe them over £800!!

For context, we are a couple living in a 2-bed mid-terrace house. We both work full time during the day (away from the house), so I think our usage is fairly low. With EDF, our previous supplier, our monthly direct debits were £90 and this covered gas and electricity comfortably. Npower had promised to lower our monthly DD to £80, which is why we switched – in February 2012 (oh, how we regret that move).

I should also mention that, after signing up for paperless billing with Npower, we have not been able to view any of our bills online 'due to technical issues they've been experiencing' which has not helped us in trying to sort this out.

When we switched from EDF to Npower, it was very straight forward so we were surprised when we received not one, but two different emails from Npower saying that they had blocked the switch to Southern Electric, each for a different reason.

The first reason was because there was an outstanding balance on the account, the second because 'our preferred supplier had not registered both/all meters' (in fact, they had correctly registered both meters and after speaking to S.E to confirm that they already had the correct meter serial numbers, Npower strangely backed down and lifted this block without any argument).

We spoke to Npower about the outstanding balance and were told we owe them £165. We couldn't get any sense out of their customer service as to why we owed this and, as we can't see any bills, we looked at our bank statements to see what we had been paying them.

We think the £165 stems from October last year, when we set up a joint account for utility bills and contacted Npower to switch the direct debit. Npower fluffed the taking of the details and so our bill didn't get paid. We got a letter about this and contacted Npower to get this amended. However, the next month they didn't take the money either. We contacted Npower again and were told that they had 'forgotten to tick a box' to start the payments straight away(?). We were told that they would increase our monthly charge to cover the missed bills.

Because of this increase, we thought that everything would have more or less been covered but, after consideration, we decided that it would be better just to cut our losses, pay them the £165 and put it down to experience. (Particularly as we didn't want to lose out on the deal with Southern Electric, which might expire soon.)

We called Npower last night (we had also tried the two days previous but after waiting in a queue to speak to someone, were told their systems were down!) to sort out the meter serial problem and also with the intention of paying the £165, if that was what we owed. At this point my wife gave them our meter readings to be told that on top of the £165, we also owed then a further £607.

We were shocked at this and when we expressed our disbelief, the CSA lectured us about providing regular meter readings and offered to put us through to complaints, which we followed him up on, only to get through and be told that all their senior complaints staff were on calls and that they would be knocking off in 10 minutes anyway, call back tomorrow (today, 14th March).

Now, we have compared the actual meter readings to what Npower told us their estimated readings were and there is a difference of 427 units (Kw/h?) on the electricity and 502 on the gas. I'm sure that shouldn't be costing that much?

…We also totted up what we have paid Npower to date and added the extra that they think we owe. It would work out at a staggering £149 per month from Feb 2012 to March 2013. Surely this cannot be right??

Apologies if this is a long and rambling post.

Any help/advice very much appreciated.
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# 2
molerat
Old 14-03-2013, 1:35 PM
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£149 a month is not unreasonable for the coldest months of the year and with previous estimated reads it could be adding some catch up. Post how many kWh you have actually used from actual meter readings, post those start, final and any in between readings, and someone can help.

Now is the time to stop phoning and go down the good old fashioned pen and paper route with a factual letter headed big and bold FORMAL COMPLAINT.

You will only get any meaningful dialogue with the majority of suppliers using the formal complaint route and unfortunately you have chosen one of the most incompetent of the bunch.

Why do you not work out the bills yourself ? I simply put dates and readings into a spreadsheet and it shows how much I have used between those 2 points, no guessing or waiting for a shock bill to come. No one here can tell you what it is possible to use in your property because it is all down to your lifestyle. Regular self meter reads and calculations is the only way you will keep tabs on your usage. You need to take control.
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Last edited by molerat; 14-03-2013 at 1:43 PM.
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# 3
Fire Fox
Old 14-03-2013, 5:32 PM
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What is your annual usage for each fuel in KWH not £££ (meaningless because tariffs vary)? How does that compare to your previous year in the property? How many times have you contacted NPower trying to resolve the problems with the paperless billing and do you have notes of when this was?

Have you been supplying readings regularly? That is not a lecture, that is the only way you can find out if you are spending more than you can afford or notice early that your meter is faulty. Direct debits don't automatically cover bills if they are based on estimates, they are simply a method of spreading the cost and can be wildly over or wildly under.

Being out of the house for one quarter of the hours in a week is irrelevant, it's what you use when you are home or what you leave on when you are not, how well insulated the house is. The big energy guzzlers are heating, hot water, power showers, laundry at higher temps, tumble dryers. Everything else is a minimal contribution: it's very unlikely both your gas and electricity meters are faulty so I suggest you are not as low users as you imagine OR someone has read the meter incorrectly.

I am home a good deal but am a low user because I barely use the heating (on low when it snows), turn the shower off whilst soaping up just on to wet and rinse, sometimes shower at the gym, don't use a tumble dryer, laundry at low temps. Few are willing to live as I do so are not low users.

By all means invoke the complaints procedure with a letter, but I think you need to sort out exactly what you are complaining about and edit down/ bullet point your OP for this. What exactly do you believe NPower have done wrong and how can they resolve that?

It's not NPower's fault you have used far more energy that you thought nor that you have been underpaying, so complaining about this will devalue and detract from any genuine complaints. They are also within their rights to block a switch based on a large debt. It may well be their fault if you have been on the telephone twenty times say, get a different story every time and none of the staff ever does what they promise. In which case your complaint is about poor customer service.
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Last edited by Fire Fox; 14-03-2013 at 5:36 PM.
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# 4
chris1980
Old 15-03-2013, 1:18 PM
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Thanks for the replies guys. You both make very good points.

This has certainly been something of a wake-up call for us in terms of keeping on top of our meter readings. I think we may have allowed ourselves to get a bit sloppy in this regard only because we have never encountered this kind of problem with any of our previous providers.

That said, and putting economical showering tips to one side, I am extremely confident that we have not used anything like what Npower are trying to charge us for and will set about trying to prove this.

I managed to find the final statement from our previous provider – we were actually owed £43 when leaving them after paying monthly direct debits of £90 – the statement is dated 3 December 2011 and gives final readings of:

Gas – 3486
Electricity – 22673

Today are readings are:

Gas – 5869
Electricity – 26480

So from this, I think our average usage over 12 months would be Gas 1906.4 and Electricity 3045.6.

I think our next move will be to contact Npower to demand hard copies of all statements/bills as well as to contact our previous provide to see if I can get usage figures or any other useful info from them.

I think we certainly have grounds for complaint over Npower's terrible customer service but I feel as though that is much less of a priority than quashing this massive charge we've been given.
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# 5
WestonDave
Old 15-03-2013, 5:40 PM
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Electricity should have cost around £600 for the period so £50 per month based on your meter readings. Gas is harder because it needs converting but I'd guess at around 27000kWhs on conversion using online calculators and your meter readings - which would cost at least £850, so £70 per month. Total you should have been paying on your consumption would be £130 per month - you've paid £80 per month, leaving £50 per month not paid. £50 x 12 months equals £600 - QED.

The real problem here is that 27000kWh's is a huge amount of gas - fair enough NPower haven't pitched the DD right but within the first year as in this case they won't have a back history to go on.
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Last edited by WestonDave; 15-03-2013 at 5:43 PM.
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# 6
chris1980
Old 16-03-2013, 9:59 AM
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Thanks WestonDave, that's really helpful.

I just wondered, is £600 about right for the electricity? I just had a look on powerswitch.com and it comes up as £319, which, when added to the gas cost, would take us a lot closer to what we usually pay.

I spoke to our previous provider yesterday who gave us our annual charges from Nov 2010 - Nov 2011 which were a combined £1026.50 (£492 electric, £534 gas).

I realise that the above would be subject to price rises etc for this year but if I add together what we have already paid with what they say we owe, it comes to £1746. This is a big jump.

We're currently trying to get hard copies of our bills but Npower don't make it easy. Last night, after being on hold for over half an hour, we got through to someone who said that the were 'unable to help us due to an exceptionally high call volume' and asked us to call back when they're less busy.
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# 7
Fire Fox
Old 16-03-2013, 3:29 PM
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When you switched did you feed your actual usage in KWH (not £££) into the price comparison site? Given how useless the telephone system is why are you not writing a letter of complaint to NPower/ asking for the bills in writing?
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# 8
WestonDave
Old 16-03-2013, 4:51 PM
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Chris - meter errors are pretty rare so given your meter readings are 3807 different for electricity and electricity is around 13p to 15p per kWh then getting on for £600 is what I'd estimate for your usage. Obviously you should be able to see on your recent bills what your unit price is (bearing in mind you then need to add VAT at 5% to the prices shown on the bill).

There are two elements you need to look at here - how much you've used and how much its costing per unit. Its no good saying it only cost X last year and you'd expect it to be say 120% of that because of rises if you've used 20% more energy as well as the price rises. You need to get from your old supplier how much energy you've used as well to compare - if there is a difference in energy usage you then need to establish why its gone up - have you been more casual with the heating, got a new tumble dryer, teenage kids discovered showering etc.
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# 9
chris1980
Old 19-03-2013, 1:59 PM
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Thanks again guys. There have been futher confusing developments (We have got all our Npower bills now).

Okay, so, first we were told we owed £165, then we were told it was £165 with a further £687 on top, then we were told it was just £663. Then, on 14/03/2013, a bill showed up online for £663.

Now, showing as of 18/03/201, there is an invoice reversal of £663, leaving our account showing as £25 in credit.

...Why would they reverse the invoice?

Anyway, I can download this reversed invoice (dated 14th March) and the charges are:

Electric £126.27 for 713 kWh (meter reading 26510)

Gas £536.88 for 12,950 kWh (meter reading 5912)

Interestingly, they've predicted our costs over the next year on the back page. They are £414.16 electric and £638.00 gas based on their calculations that we use 2765 kWh of electricity and 13797 kWh of gas over 12 months. This is a heck of a lot less than they're charging us for in the previous 12.

In answer to your questions regarding our usage, I can think of no reason why this would have shot up so much, gas in particular. We are both out of the house most of the day, 5 days a week and the heating is off. We have no kids and no tumble dryer.

The only thing I can think is that the Eon yearly spend was calculated from November '10 to November '11 which has less wintery months than January '12 to March '13. Our previous supplier wouldn't let us know our annual usage in kWh as we're no longer with them.

Fire Fox, we have already emailed a letter of complaint, which went out before I made the first forum post. Npower have tried to phone my wife once or twice but always when she has been at work and unable to take the call, other than that, we've heard nothing. I am considering sending a further written letter later this week, I just need to suss out if our complaint should be based purely on bad customer service.
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# 10
macman
Old 19-03-2013, 2:18 PM
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Never ever switch suppliers based on the promise of a lower DD. All that does is build future debt. The only comparison that matters is the total annual cost, which any comp site will tell you in seconds.
That second prediction based on 15 months covers two winters rather than one, so will of course make a huge difference. You can expect to use 75%+ of your annual usage in the coldest 3 months
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Last edited by macman; 19-03-2013 at 2:22 PM.
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