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Scottish Power refuse to lower direct debit after paying off debt

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farangfarang
farangfarang Posts: 7 Forumite
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edited 14 August 2023 at 11:31AM in Energy
In April 2022 I realised my readings were several thousand kwhs off the correct meter reading (to my disadvantage), my fault for not keeping on top of submitting readings and the estimate being way off. As a result I suddenly had a debt of about £1,000 and at the same time as prices went bananas, I had to start paying off the debt.

My direct debit almost tripped starting July, and by early December I had got the debt down to £60.

I asked for my direct debit to be lowered given the majority of the debt was paid off, and as my bills are quarterly, I'd end up building a credit if they weren't lowered. I was given some spiel and told to call back after the next bill.

Low and behold, after a cold winter, we still built up a credit of £90 on our early March statement, so overpaid by £50 a month as compared to our real usage.

Today I get an email saying they have to increase my direct debit payments to meet my projected usage.

I spent nearly two hours on the phone to customer services, they used a number of excuses, perhaps I have a faulty appliance, they legally cannot lower the direct debit if the computer tells them it will put me in debt, call back after your next bill etc. But the maths is simple.

According to their analysis today my average usage over 12 months is 10kwh a day. My used over the winter quarter was 20kwh a day, and since my bill in early March I have averaged 12kwh per day.

In the winter period, my direct debit was enough to cover 20kwh per day, plus pay off £60 of dept and build up £90 of credit. So my direct debit is enough to cover significantly more than 20kwh of usage a day.

My annual average is 10kwh, and spring usage this far (despite snow) 12kwh per day. How can they refuse to lower my direct debit, which is exorbitantly high? Even the phone advisor understood it was nonsense, but still his computer kept saying it was necessary to ensure my account doesn't fall into debt.

Can anyone advise how I can proceed? I can't afford to keep paying £400 a month now the debt is paid off, it's been really tough doing this since July. My next bill will be in June and by my calculations I'll build up a credit of more than £600 by then.

They offered, since I now have smart meters, to switch to a cash tariff and pay monthly, but they would charge me an extra 10% or so for the privilege....
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  • Gerry1
    Gerry1 Posts: 9,946 Forumite
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    Just switch to Variable Direct Debit.  Of course, you'll pay more in the winter months than in summer but at least you'll be in charge of your budgeting.
  • farangfarang
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    Gerry1 said:
    Just switch to Variable Direct Debit.  Of course, you'll pay more in the winter months than in summer but at least you'll be in charge of your budgeting.
    I was told my only.optopn other than pay the amount they want me to pay was a cash account, paid manually each month and at a premium of 10%. I was told variable direct debit would not be possible...
  • Robin9
    Robin9 Posts: 12,218 Forumite
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    Change suppliers - EDF does a monthly variable DD as above. SP will be forced to refund credit.
    Never pay on an estimated bill. Always read and understand your bill
  • Gerry1
    Gerry1 Posts: 9,946 Forumite
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    edited 15 March 2023 at 9:14PM
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  • farangfarang
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    Gerry1 said:
    Seems the agent was wrong.
    See Maria's comment at...

    Spoke to a second agent today and unfortunately Scottish Power do not offer variable direct debit. At least not on the standard tarrifs.

    I got a response from the complaints team. They explained my projected usage over 12 months was 28,000kwh gas and 5,800kwh electric and that for the second time in a week, they were raising my direct debit, not lowering it.

    So I went over my bills for past 12 months and have used 8,200kwh gas and 4,100kwh electric. I phoned them up, broke down the bills again and had them cross reference on their end. They confirmed and said they'd ask the offline team to reduce my direct debit to £200 (instead of £420).

    What this means is that since July 2022, I have been on direct debit amount that was completely unaffordable and very hard for me to pay. I was led to believe it was to pay off the debt quickly, which I accepted and paid off in 5 months, then multiple advisors kept gaslighting me into believing the numbers were correct and their figures were based on actual usage.

    While I am glad they have finally manually reviewed my usage and the direct debit is being reduced, do I have an recourse for the hardship I've had to endure with the extremely high direct debit over the last 9 months, a direct result of their system error miscalculating my projected usage?
  • MWT
    MWT Posts: 9,365 Forumite
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    edited 17 March 2023 at 5:28PM
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    While I am glad they have finally manually reviewed my usage and the direct debit is being reduced, do I have an recourse for the hardship I've had to endure with the extremely high direct debit over the last 9 months, a direct result of their system error miscalculating my projected usage?
    If their original figures were badly wrong after submitting your meter readings you would have built up a huge credit balance, which doesn't seem to be the case, so no, no recourse as the hardship seems to have just been to clear the debt that you agreed was accurate.
    They may have got the forecast for the next year wrong, but it looks like there was nothing much wrong with the level they set for the DD up to last month...

  • farangfarang
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    MWT said:
    While I am glad they have finally manually reviewed my usage and the direct debit is being reduced, do I have an recourse for the hardship I've had to endure with the extremely high direct debit over the last 9 months, a direct result of their system error miscalculating my projected usage?
    If their original figures were badly wrong after submitting your meter readings you would have built up a huge credit balance, which doesn't seem to be the case, so no, no recourse as the hardship seems to have just been to clear the debt that you agreed was accurate.
    They may have got the forecast for the next year wrong, but it looks like there was nothing much wrong with the level they set for the DD up to last month...

    The debt that was built up due to the incorrect readings Scottish power took from my last supplier (I luckily had photos and had actually issued correct readings to both suppliers at time of switching). My mistake was not noticing for a while.

    I didn't build up a huge credit because I instead paid off the debt in record time, and over winter, once the debt was paid off, I did build up a credit - despite it being the time of heaviest usage.

    I should have been given more manageable payments to repay the debt (and indeed I would have been given more manageable payments had their system correctly calculated my usage). Based on this, do I have any recourse for the hardship their miscalculation has out me through?
  • EssexHebridean
    EssexHebridean Posts: 21,716 Forumite
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    I think a formal complaint relating to the incorrect figures you were given might well be in order - that could simply have been accepted by someone less tenacious and without the ability to work out their own use, with the high DD amount then putting them into financial hardship.  The supplier has a duty of care to ensure that any DD is “reasonable” - in your case it seems that they failed in that regard once the debt was cleared. I would also question why they insisted that the debt had to be cleared so fast - usually clearing over a year would be considered fair. 
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  • wild666
    wild666 Posts: 2,158 Forumite
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    If you are using 10kWh per day that is 3650 kWh per year, that's 2150 kWh less than your energy supplier is quoting. I only use 4.5 kWh per day on average, most days it's between 3.6 and 3.9 kWh with one day of 8 kWh, that's about 34 kWh per week.
    Try turning off everything not in use, don't use standby, I cut my electric usage by 33% doing that as the power they claim an appliance uses is less than the actual usage in many cases. With heating try lowering temperatures on the boiler and thermostat if gas central heating or just lower the radiator temperatures in rooms not used to the lowest, but never off, as it could eventually cause damp or mould in the room. If all electric just lower the temperatures of radiators even in frequently used rooms as well as other rooms not used much. 

    Someone please tell me what money is
  • MikeyPGT
    MikeyPGT Posts: 331 Forumite
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    If you can find another supplier to take you on I'd definitely recommend ditching Scottish Power - it really is the energy supplier from hell!  
    Debt Free Wannabe by 1 March 2026 

    Satisfied customer of Octopus Agile - currently saving on average 33% of standard tarrif

    Deep seated hatred of Scottish Power and all who sail in her - would love to see Ofgem grow a pair and actually do something about it.
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