Energy Dispute with provider - Ombudsman Upheld but Debt Too High

Dziet_Sma
Dziet_Sma Posts: 17
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edited 25 January at 9:56AM in Energy
I joined my current dual fuel provider nearly 2 years ago. I set up a direct debit upon joining and submitted meter reading every month.
I got an email every month confirming different payments and the money came out of my account, so I thought all was well.
Last year they contacted me and asked me when I would be paying the debt owed of £850. I asked them what they were talking about and it seemed that they had put me on a budget plan, without telling me and not at my request and the plan was way off.
To cut a long story shorter, they had made several mistakes with submitted readings, acknowledged they'd failed to use my actual reading several times, their website and processes were poor and agreed it was their fault. But told me I would still have to pay, on a plan. I couldn't afford to as I don't have the spare money - I work 2 jobs and am a single parent of 3 kids.
I took it to the Ombudsman who have upheld my complaint, they advised that the debt has arisen solely due to the providers fault, I have done everything that would be expected and they have let me down, incorrectly putting me on a budget plan and not telling me, allowing a debt to build and not having proper processes to use my actual readings.
The Ombudsman who have spoken to me and are really sympathetic, have advised that whilst the complaint is entirely upheld, they are limited in their action and they can only advise that a goodwill gesture of £150 is credited to me and they agree a repayment plan with me. This is because the debt is owed, regardless of how is has arisen and it being entirely their fault and me being totally unaware, happily paying by direct debit every month (and not saving anything to pay it as I didn't know).
I can't pay the debt, can't afford anymore each month but don't want a black mark against my credit record, which is absolutely clear, I have never been in debt.
I would happily argue my case in court as I believe I have been completely let down and they have created a situation where I have been allowed to accrue a debt, unknowingly.
I am unsure of my options - I can accept the decision of the ombudsman, if I don't I am unsure where it goes.
It really grates me that a multi billion £££ organisation are completely at fault for my debt, I am working all the hours I can to feed, clothe and keep a roof above my kids heads, and I have to pay them.
Any advice appreciated.

Comments

  • carly
    carly Posts: 1,405
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    Since the debt is their fault perhaps you can shame them into writing it off.  Try contacting your local newspaper telling them the story.... or your MP..... or on the companies  Facebook page.  They tend to not like adverse publicity
  • elsien
    elsien Posts: 32,320
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    Were your bills accurate and were they showing the increasing amount of arrears overtime?
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • MeteredOut
    MeteredOut Posts: 1,125
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    edited 25 January at 11:31AM
    The Ombudsman are correct and they can't force the supplier to write off your debt, so, as above, the supplier would have to do this as a goodwill gesture.

    £850 was owed and you were given £150 compensation (which is quite a high reward from the Ombudsman), leaving £700 debit.

    What have the supplier suggested? Over what period are they asking you to pay that back?

    I suspect this is the angle you could push. What could you realistically afford each month? 

    Energy bills are forecast to drop around 16% from April, so you could suggest to your supplier that you keep your DD the same from then, and that would start eating into the debt amount. You are already paying that amount today, so should hopefully be able to accomodate that.

    If you do default, some suppliers have re-started the practice of installing pre-payment meters, where any debt can  automatically be taken from any top-ups, so its worthwhile working with the supplier on an agreement.

    Also, look into back-billing rules, which may offer some relief for usage more than 12 months from the date you were notified of the debt: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/information-consumers/energy-advice-households/check-energy-back-billing-rules. Note this will not come into play if they have been sending you bills showing the debt building up on your account but you have not been reading/acting on them. This includes if the bills are online only but you've not been logging in to check them.
  • Dziet_Sma
    Dziet_Sma Posts: 17
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    elsien said:
    Were your bills accurate and were they showing the increasing amount of arrears overtime?

    I got an email each month telling me the payment that would be taken, this changed each month so I assumed was based on actual submitted readings. The full bills were hidden away on website - you would have to log in and find them, and often the website was inaccessible. TBH I initially didnt realise and just carried on paying. Again Ombudsman have acknowledged this is a supplier failing.
  • MWT
    MWT Posts: 9,140
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    edited 25 January at 3:21PM
    Dziet_Sma said:
    elsien said:
    Were your bills accurate and were they showing the increasing amount of arrears overtime?

    I got an email each month telling me the payment that would be taken, this changed each month so I assumed was based on actual submitted readings. The full bills were hidden away on website...
    Managing your account online and without paper bills is something you would have agreed to at the start of your contract, and from the sound of things the bills were probably accurate and timely, you just didn't look at them.
    The Ombudsman has done as much as they can in the circumstances and probably more than was reasonable to have expected, so that is a 'win' in itself.
    Are you now paying the correct amount each month for your current use, or is the debt continuing to rise?


  • t0rt0ise
    t0rt0ise Posts: 4,215
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    Try the Energy Trust for a help paying the debt. It's not only for British Gas customers. 

  • Dziet_Sma
    Dziet_Sma Posts: 17
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    t0rt0ise said:
    Try the Energy Trust for a help paying the debt. It's not only for British Gas customers. 


    It states only for BG customers
  • elsien
    elsien Posts: 32,320
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    edited 25 January at 1:30PM
    No, it’s for other customers as well

    Who Can Apply?

    Customers of British Gas as well as customers of other energy suppliers can apply. You must live in England, Wales or Scotland. It’s important to get money or debt advice before applying for a grant.

    https://britishgasenergytrust.org.uk/who-can-apply/


    And the page you have directly linked to also says the same thing: 
     “The fund is available to BG and Non-BG customers with debt on a credit energy account or those on a pre-payment meter.”
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • QrizB
    QrizB Posts: 13,685
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    Dziet_Sma said:
    I am unsure of my options - I can accept the decision of the ombudsman, if I don't I am unsure where it goes.
    You can accept the Ombudsman's decision, take the £150 and owe £700.
    Or you can reject the decision and still owe £850.
    Dziet_Sma said:
    Any advice appreciated.
    If you've built a debt of £850 over two years, you've been underpaying by about £35 a month. Has the Ombudsman made any suggestions as to a repayment schedule? If you can get it spread out over the next two years, £700 will be an extra £30 a month.
    On top of that, you need to find either a further £35 a month to cover your actual coats or reduce your energy use my an equivalent value.
    Do you now know your typical annual usage of gas and electricity? Can you share those values with us?
    The average UK household uses 2700kWh of electricity and 11500kWh of gas every year. Are you close to those numbers, higher or lower?
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  • Mobtr
    Mobtr Posts: 613
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    Dziet_Sma said:
    elsien said:
    Were your bills accurate and were they showing the increasing amount of arrears overtime?

    I got an email each month telling me the payment that would be taken, this changed each month so I assumed was based on actual submitted readings. The full bills were hidden away on website - you would have to log in and find them, and often the website was inaccessible. TBH I initially didnt realise and just carried on paying. Again Ombudsman have acknowledged this is a supplier failing.
    The full bills were not hidden away, they were on your online account & are your responsibility to check each month. Had you done this you wouldn’t be in this situation. While the energy supplier is most definitely at fault in part, so are you for not checking your bills. Assuming they were correct is no defence and wouldn’t stand up in court however much you argued it. 
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