Dianne Beasley was both shocked and surprised when a £2,320 energy bill from a firm that went bust 10 months ago landed on her doormat.
The Leigh Park single mother of two said she was devastated at receiving the whopping great bill so long after the company had folded.
Dianne 27, who lives in a rented bedsit and is struggling to make ends meet, just couldn’t get her head around why she’d been charged such a massive amount when she was on a pre-payment meter for 14 months and her energy arrears at the time the firm folded was less than £100.
Birmingham based Extra Energy went bust in November 2018, leaving over 130,000 private and business customers in the lurch.
The firm was just one of 10 smaller energy providers that went to the wall in the short space of a year, having fallen victim to unexpectedly higher wholesale costs, and stringent regulatory measures.
To preserve continuity of supply, energy industry regulator Ofgem switched customers to Scottish Power, and appointed liquidator PwC to sort out its finances and issue final bills.
The task wasn’t made any easier when Ofgem admitted it was aware Extra Energy had a track record for failing to deal with complaints.
Many customers were kept waiting for months before they received their final bills, and a significant number were querying the amounts they were being charged.
During the two and a half years Dianne was with Extra Energy, she started paying for her gas and electricity up front. She’d fallen behind with her bill payments and had accumulated arrears of £490.
Prior to that, her bills had been averaging £35 a month, but after she got her landlord to switch her to key operated prepayment meters the arrears dropped steadily as part of her prepayments went to clearing them.
She said: ‘I was stunned. It came like a bolt out of the blue. I was just so angry I just didn’t know what to do at receiving such a bill so long after the company went bust.
‘There’s no way I could see how I could possibly owe more than £2,000 for my gas and electricity, when their last bill confirmed I only owed £89.36 and for much of the time I was on a prepayment meter. Some wires must have got crossed somewhere along the line.
‘What made it worse was when I tried to get answers, I was just pushed from one department to another. The collapse of the company has been handled really badly, and no one would give me an explanation or take responsibility.’
Dianne rightly reasoned the bill she’d received was so large that it must be a mistake.
Her first reaction was blind panic, but being locked in a power struggle and battling with an energy company about her account wasn’t something she was looking forward to.
Determined not to be dismissed as just another unhappy customer she turned to Streetwise for help.
We first discovered administrators PwC had taken over responsibility for finalising the failed company’s billing and accounts.
However, because administrators aren’t energy firms we couldn’t assist Dianne to complain to Ofgem or the energy Ombudsman about her ludicrous bill as they weren’t bound by their rules.
But we assured her that while it might be problematical verifying legacy bills from the end of last year, her situation was so ludicrous as to question its validity.
If PwC tried to recover the claimed arrears, a court would want to see evidence about how the bill was calculated.
While they confirmed a ‘significant majority’ of customers had received their final bills, thousands of former Extra Energy customers like Dianne were left in the dark over disputed bills or refunds 10 months down the line.
Apparently the Extra Energy’s customer data was in such a mess it turned into a dog’s breakfast of a job having to go through every customer’s account individually.
They’d continue to work with customers to resolve issues as quickly as possible,
Following this reassurance we got onto the Extra Energy customer relations team and pointed out that the bill Dianne had received was so off the scale of credibility as to be absurd. It couldn’t possibly be taken seriously.
We invited them to check the meter numbers they had on record at her bedsit and look into the possibility there’d been a mistake.
Within a few days they’d solved the mystery, and got to the bottom of Dianne’s surreal billing fiasco.
A spokesperson confirmed that when her meters were changed from credit to prepayment the records hadn’t been updated.
The quarterly credit account hadn’t been cancelled, and they’d been over estimating her energy consumption and not sent her any bills.
Extra Energy said they’d agree a solution with PwC, and after amending their database a recalculated bill would be issued.
Dianne was relieved just a week later when an amended final bill for just £27.97 promptly arrived as promised.
‘I just don’t know how to thank you,’ she said. ‘I was being passed from pillar to post and worried sick at the very thought of such a massive bill I’d never be able to repay.
‘I wanted to get it sorted but didn’t know how to go about it. As soon as Streetwise got on the case for me it was fixed in just a couple of weeks.’