A Fareham pensioner is looking forward to a stress-free Christmas after Scottish Power finally refunded him £2,779 in overpaid electricity bills.
Eighty-two-year-old Peter Dowling spent 14 months trying to convince the energy giant that it had been overcharging him for electricity for nearly five years.
His troubles all started shortly after his wife Beryl died in August 2012.
His eldest son, David, persuaded him to switch energy suppliers to get a better deal, but he’s had reason to regret the change ever since.
Despite what appeared to be a lower tariff, his bills were substantially higher than when he was with Southern Electric.
‘I just couldn’t understand it,’ said the retired upholsterer. ‘They kept sending me large bills, and when I queried it they sent someone round to read the meter who insisted there was nothing wrong with it.
‘I only did the odd repair and recovering job in my work shed for friends, so most of the time I was only using electricity for lighting and watching the TV. The house is only a two-up, two-down and cooking and heating is by gas.
‘I only paid up because I felt I had to. In the end I found some months where I was struggling making ends meet after overspending on the household budget.
‘I raided the savings piggy bank, which annoyed me no end as I’ve always paid my bills on the nail and never got into any debt.
‘Then in September 2016 my youngest son, Michael, wrote to the firm for me and registered an official complaint.
‘A customer service advisor rang me to get more details, and promised to look into my complaint and ring back.
‘I just knew what I had been charged couldn’t be right and I told him so in no uncertain terms.’
But when another six weeks drifted by and the promised call wasn’t returned, Peter rang them again and asked how his complaint was progressing.
He says it turned out to be just the beginning of a frustrating battle with Scottish Power, who consistently ignored his calls for help and pushed him from pillar to post.
What got him really fired up was that no-one could explain what had happened.
There were only token apologies for all the time he’d wasted on the phone to customer services, much of which was spent in lengthy ‘call waiting’ queues before he could speak to anybody.
Every time he made contact he spoke to a different advisor and had to reel off his story time and time again before he could get a response.
Then last May, it looked as if there was a breakthrough and the mess was about to get sorted.
A service agent kept him on the phone for almost half-an-hour while she did some checking with a supervisor, and then finally agreed he’d been overcharged by £633.
As far as he was concerned the entire process had become farcical, bordering on the ridiculous.
A furious Peter admits he let fly in uncharacteristically forthright language, which resulted in another technician turning up to check his meter.
This time he got a letter confirming it was defective and had been over-recording his electricity usage.
He finally thought there was light at the end of the tunnel when the refund figure was upped to a staggering £2,779.
He just couldn’t believe they’d hung on to his money for so long and why the overbilling fiasco he’d pleaded with them to get sorted for so long hadn’t come to light much earlier.
Peter says he was stunned by the amount of overpayment and asked when he could expect to receive the reimbursement cheque.
However, the shenanigans didn’t finish there.
He was assured by a customer advisor it would be in the post within 28 days, but to his chagrin that was the last he heard of it.
When he repeatedly got back on to the company for an explanation, no-one seemed to know about the promised refund.
Yet more promises were made to look into it for him, but when he was left either being ignored or going around in ever-decreasing circles, a friend suggested that it was high time he got on to Streetwise.
Within a few days of our intervention, the next letter that arrived from the firm offered him a fulsome apology.
The good news included the long-awaited confirmation that they’d credited his bank account with the full £2,779 overpayment and as a gesture of goodwill were sending him a £200 Christmas hamper.
Peter rang to say: ‘It’s all finally been sorted, thanks to Streetwise.
‘It’s the best Christmas present that I could have had.
‘Without your help I’d still be trying to get it fixed. I just can’t thank you enough.’