CONSUMER: Portsmouth widow hit with £3,000 invoice '“ from company she wasn't with

Elizabeth Gullen got the shock of her life when out of the blue she received a demand for thousands of pounds from an energy company she'd never been signed up with.

Thursday, 21st June 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 21st June 2018, 11:23 am
streetwise Elizabeth Gullen File photo dated 24/05/06 of a recent Scottish Power energy bill and money. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday September 15, 2009. Inflation slid to its lowest level in almost five years during August, official figures showed today. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) fell from 1.8% to 1.6% over the month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It was last lower in November 2004. Unchanged household ENERGY bills this year compared with big hikes 12 months earlier dragged down the rate of inflation, along with falling food prices, the ONS said. See PA story ECONOMY Inflation. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire PPP-171004-100100001

The Portsmouth widow was stunned by the massive £2,742 invoice that dropped though her letterbox in February along with a number of cards from the family to mark her 79th birthday.

Her late husband Brian used to handle all their domestic finances, so when she opened the unwelcome birthday missive from Scottish Power she was shocked and didn’t know what to do.

The great grandmother has lived at her North End family home for over 30 years.

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What confused her so much was the fact they’d been signed up with Eon and British Gas for as many years as she could remember, and had never been a customer of Scottish Power.

After the initial shock and panic had worn off she was sure the invoice, addressed to the occupier, was just a mistake so she returned it with a covering letter explaining the situation.

But if she thought her woes were over, she was in for a rude awakening.

They were just about to begin.

‘Less than two weeks later another demand from Scottish Power arrived, this time addressed to me personally,’ the retired nurse said.

‘I immediately got on the phone and tried to explain to them that I’d never been one of their customers and to stop sending me the bills.

‘Although I got an assurance someone would look into it and ring me back, nothing further happened for almost a month, when I got yet another bill.

‘This time I sent them an email, and to my relief I received a reassuring reply with an apology confirming the invoices were intended for a different address.

‘I thought it was finally the end of the story but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

‘When the fourth invoice unexpectedly arrived I was so angry and bewildered.

‘I couldn’t sleep with the worry and frustration, and was completely at the end of my tether.’

Her eldest son David, a local government officer, spent hours on the phone at war with Scottish Power bending the ears of various people at head office trying to sort out the mess.

‘Each time he called he had to keep repeating himself going through every last detail,’ said Elizabeth. ‘Finally he was given an assurance it would all be sorted. Then a few days later I got a call from them to arrange for an engineer to call to read the meters and check the serial numbers.

‘I thought no more of it because I was told it was just routine to clear up the confusion and confirm I didn’t owe them a penny.’

Elizabeth was reassured when the engineer examined and photographed the meters, confirming that somewhere along the line administration wires had got crossed.

He guaranteed on submitting his report that was the end of the matter.

But things went from bad to worse when yet another a letter arrived – this time from debt collectors insisting she now owed £3,047.36.

If she didn’t pay up promptly she’d be put onto pre-payment meters or a court order obtained to disconnect her gas and electric supply.

It was finally a chance meeting with a friend in a local supermarket that was to bring the bizarre debacle to an end.

Her friend suggested contacting Streetwiseand when we learned of Elizabeth’s ongoing row with the top energy provider we agreed to intervene and get it sorted once and for all.

When we contacted the firm no one could call up a record of her complaint, despite the fact Elizabeth had a bulging file with copies of demands, letters and emails.

We asked them to investigate and get back with an explanation.

It was as plain as a pikestaff that their own engineer had established her meters didn’t correspond to the demands they had been sending.

A few days later a spokesperson for the company confirmed that there had been a billing error and the invoices had been wrongly sent to Elizabeth’s address.

‘We have spoken to Mrs Gullen,’ the spokesperson said, ‘and confirmed that our records have been corrected and no further correspondence will be sent to her.

‘The matter is now fully resolved and we have sent her flowers and a cheque for £100 by way of an apology for the upset and distress it has caused her.’

Elizabeth was both relieved and astonished at the way Streetwise managed to fix the problem for her.

She said: ‘I can’t tell you what a weight has been lifted from my mind.

‘Your help achieved in two days what we’d been struggling to get sorted for almost three months.

‘To be told by such a big company that you owe them thousands when you know perfectly well it is a mistake and they aren’t listening to you can be a terrifying experience.

‘I really can’t put into words how grateful I am for your help.’