Battling Portsmouth pensioner Eileen Brunton was astounded to discover her Economy 7 electricity meter readings had been reversed and she’d unknowingly overpaid nPower £2,947 for energy she hadn’t used.
But the 83-year-old from Eastney, who moved to a one-bedroom bungalow when her husband Ken died, was left out in the cold when she tried to get three years of bungled billing sorted and the overpayment refunded.
I was shocked to discover my meter was clocking up daytime units as night and night as day.Eileen Brunton
Ken dealt with all their finances and, with her only daughter living in Australia, it was a bit of a steep learning curve when Eileen found herself in charge of all the household bills.
Eileen received a call from nPower customer services last August to say that from September 1 her monthly direct debit payment would rocket from £110 to £170 a month.
She spoke to her daughter Jean about it, who suggested she got on to nPower.
Jean was alarmed that her mum appeared to be already paying way over the odds for her electricity.
Eileen said: ‘I contacted the firm to ask why, despite being on a supposedly cheap Economy 7 tariff for my night storage heaters, my bills were so high.
‘They said they’d look into it, so I wasn’t surprised when they rang me back to tell me they’d decided to maintain my payments at the previous level after all.
‘I thought no more about it for a couple of months until one of my neighbours who has a similar heating set-up told me her electricity bills were about half of what I was paying.
‘Her husband gave me a useful guide about how to read electricity meters, and I was shocked to discover my meter was clocking up daytime units as night, and night as day.’
Alarmed, Eileen rang nPower about the meter error and billing blunder. She says it took several more calls complaining that no-one appeared interested in helping her recover the overpayments before the company finally agreed to send out an engineer to check the meter.
An engineer arrived a fortnight later and assured Eileen there was nothing wrong with the meter. It was working perfectly, but the readings were the wrong way round. He agreed her readings were correct and he’d submit a report to nPower with an updated meter reading.
After the engineer left she went on the phone again to nPower customer services. They told her they couldn’t do anything until they received the engineer’s report.
Eileen waited another week, until frustration got the better of her. She phoned again to ask what arrangements were being made to reimburse the overpayments.
Unable to obtain a straight answer, she left it for another three weeks before she was on the phone again anxiously trying to find out what was going on.
This time to her disbelief, she was told no-one knew anything about the matter and she was asked whether she had she been on to them about it before.
An exasperated Eileen promptly insisted to speak to someone more senior, only to be told they would get someone to deal with it and ring her back within the hour.
The call was not returned as promised, so she rang again agreeing to wait until she could speak to someone in charge. After holding on for 15 minutes the line suddenly went dead and the call was disconnected.
With all these abortive phone calls behind her, Eileen decided enough was enough. She wrote to Streetwise telling us that as a widower living on her own in a one-bedroom bungalow she always had her suspicions the amounts she had been paying were way over the top.
However, no matter what she did it was impossible to get anyone at nPower to fix it for her and organise a refund.
We got on to the energy giant to say the way an elderly Eileen had been treated after the meter mix-up had been discovered was inexcusable. Nobody had taken responsibility for handling her complaint and she was almost £3,000 out of pocket.
Within a few days we learned the issue had been resolved to Eileen’s complete satisfaction.
A spokesperson said: ‘After carrying out a full investigation into Mrs Brunton’s account, we discovered that her meter readings had been transposed and fully accept she’s been overcharged.
‘We’ve apologised to her for any distress and inconvenience she has experienced.
‘We’ve updated her account and a cheque for a full refund is already on its way to her. Because of the length of time it took us to resolve the matter we have also included a £200 goodwill payment which Mrs Brunton has accepted.’
A delighted Eileen said: ‘Thanks to Streetwise my problem with nPower has been resolved. I’ve already received their cheque for £2,947 plus a payment on top for all the upset over the past few months.’
‘I’m most grateful for your help.’