Money

My elderly father lives in fear of a massive Bulb energy bill


When my elderly father moved flat last summer, we set up the electricity supply with Bulb and supplied meter readings.

Since then, he’s tried in vain to get Bulb to produce an accurate bill. It has been using a meter reference which belongs to a house in a different part of the country and told my father it was up to him to contact the relevant energy companies to correct the mix-up.

It now says it’s disputing the final meter readings for his flat provided by the previous supplier.

We keep sending photos of the meter, to no avail. Bulb has arranged two independent meter readings, but no one turned up. In the depths of a Scottish winter, my dad is petrified to turn the heating on in case he unwittingly runs up a massive bill.

CB, Paisley

Bulb, a green energy supplier, has managed to stay out of my column during its five-year existence, and customer feedback is largely positive. But this is a grave slip-up, with potentially grave consequences for your father.

Covid has pressurised all corporate customer services, but it’s inexcusable the company gave up on the issue before you contacted me.

It admits that it should not have asked him to resolve the meter mix-up, that it should have followed up the two missed appointments to read his meter, and that it should have called him to discuss the complaint.

The issue, it says, was that the meter readings by your father were lower than the final reading provided by the previous supplier.

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Only after my contact did it resolve its dispute with that supplier and agree to write off any debt.

It turns out that your father is, in fact, £80 in credit. Bulb has refunded this and has offered an additional £75 in goodwill.

Down in Manchester, 81-year-old HK has also been living in fear of shock bills due to a blank electricity meter. “My supplier, Yorkshire Energy, made two attempts to replace it, but on both occasions the installers brought the wrong kind,” she writes. “I was then informed that the company had ceased trading and Scottish Power was taking over, but as I can’t send a meter reading, I can’t register as a new customer. I tried to submit a formal complaint but Scottish Power wouldn’t accept it because I didn’t have an account! I am terrified that I will end up with an enormous bill.”

Again, corporate carelessness has left a vulnerable customer in a parlous plight. It required input from me before Scottish Power registered the account and arranged for a new meter to be installed, but it was another seven weeks before that actually happened.

A compulsory new smart meter caused two years of havoc for FC of London whose monthly electricity bills from Npower shot up from £80 a month to as much as £900. “The bills were sky high, even for periods when the flat was empty,” he writes. “I’m now being pursued for £2,300 and am terrified.”

FC has been an Npower customer for eight years. He lives in a one-bedroom flat with gas central heating and is away for much of the year. It should be blindingly obvious that if hitherto consistent electricity bills soar tenfold after a new meter is installed, there may be an issue.

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Not until I pointed that out to Npower did it discover that the new meter was failing to collect and send readings, prompting bills based on crazed estimates.

It replaced the device, monitored the subsequent energy consumption and discovered that far from owing £2,300, the account is in credit.

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