When Zoe Oakley was approached by a Together Energy representative promising to significantly slash her energy bills she jumped at the chance to sign up.
But just a week or so later she discovered to her dismay she’d ended up in limbo between two different energy companies.
Her troubles started last March when the door stepping Together Energy salesman convinced her she could get a much better deal if she switched to them from her current supplier, Shell Energy.
To her surprise a week after she’d signed on the dotted line, a manager turned up from Together Energy to confirm she’d been mislead. The promise to significantly slash her gas and electricity bills had been oversold and any savings would be negligible.
He told her the three-year deal she’d been offered was within a few pounds the same as the one she’d already been on with Shell Energy, and agreed to get straight on the phone with her to jettison the switchover and check whether it had been actioned.
On receiving confirmation it hadn’t been activated she breathed a sigh of relief, and thought no more about it.
But another few days later a welcome pack from Together Energy unexpectedly turned up in the post at her Southsea home, and warning bells of an impending power struggle began to ring.
To complicate matters further, she subsequently realised a £60 incentive to switch suppliers by Together Energy to pay the Shell Energy early termination fee had also been overlooked in the process.
Zoe said: ‘As I couldn’t afford to be out of pocket I rang Shell Energy again to ensure I wasn’t going to be leaving them.
‘They told me things would stay the same as long as they’d been cancelled at the other end which I‘d been assured by Together Energy was the case.
‘I put it out of mind again until I got an email from Shell which amounted to a final statement, including the £60 fee.
‘I immediately rang them and a lady told me I no longer had an account with them, and I was now with a new supplier. The matter could only be sorted by Together Energy.
‘Worried sick, when I rang them I was told my account came up as cancelled, but for some reason the system was still processing it. Even after all the months of apparently not being with anybody, it still kept coming up the same.
Zoe pleaded with Together Energy customer services to get the enigma resolved, but every time she phoned or emailed she was either pushed from pillar to post in a wild goose chase, or completely ignored.
However, in mid June she thought she was finally getting somewhere when she was told they’d finally agreed to refund her the £60, send her a bill, and release her from the contract. It was currently being processed but she’d have to wait.
To her fury and dismay it turned out to be another red herring and Zoe, already trying to cope with a number of mental health issues, didn’t know which way to turn.
She tried phoning again a few weeks later and was told the termination was still being processed, but confused and disconcerted she had to ring back again when she still didn’t get the promised confirmation.
Throughout July she was extremely unwell, and unable to deal with phones or email with any degree of confidence.
Determined not to be ignored, in early August she decided it was high time to insist on talking to a manager. He agreed to look into her complaint and said to expect a return call from him within 24 hours.
A week later when yet another promise to call her back didn’t materialise a hacked off Zoe decided to call in Streetwise to get the matter resolved once and for all.
Of immediate concern was how to manage her money. Although her bank account was in credit she’s still hadn’t been billed by Together Energy, and because she was no longer a customer of Shell Energy, her utility finances were left in tatters.
‘I had to keep money aside in case there was a huge bill so I just hoped I’d been clever enough to get it right’, added Zoe.
‘I didn’t know what I was able to spend or what I owed. The whole process had put me under so much stress over the months.
‘There’s no customer service. The entire thing has been a joke. I’ve emailed them and rung them and you just don’t get anywhere. They didn’t even send a letter out or an acknowledgement.’
Streetwise contacted Together Energy for an explanation. We couldn’t understand why it wasn’t possible for anyone to take control of Zoe’s problem once she’d alerted them to it and promptly get it sorted.
Subsequently corporate hands went up fully admitting the shambles had been triggered by a salesman who no longer worked for the company.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are extremely sorry for Ms Oakley’s experience. Unfortunately she was quoted a tariff by a third party working on our behalf which would not have been suitable for the customer. We are no longer working with that company.
‘Ms Oakley believed she had cancelled her supply with us during the cooling off period but we have no record of this. However, we are currently arranging for Ms Oakley to return to Shell who will reimburse her the £60 fee.
‘In addition, we have provided Ms Oakley with £40 compensation for the inconvenience she has unfortunately experienced.’
Zoe was just so relieved after five months of hassle she was finally back to square one and the confusing mess had finally been cleared up.
She said: ‘Thanks so much for your help. It was getting me down so badly I really wasn’t up to coping with the stress at all.
‘I tried my best to sort it out, but no one was interested. Their customer service was not fit for purpose. Hopefully I can now put the whole thing behind me and start getting back to normal with sorting my money and bills.’
Streetwise answers your questions
Q. I’m really annoyed with my local ASDA store that had a microwave oven priced at £45.00 but when I attempted to buy it, the checkout operator said there had been a mistake and the actual price was £60. The manager refused to budge and wouldn’t sell it to me at the marked up price. Where do I stand with this?
A. This is an issue that pops in my inbox on a regular basis.
Setting aside for the moment the requirement in law to ensure goods are accurately priced, I understand why you’re angry.
When you saw the bargain microwave priced at 45 quid on the shelf it amounted to what is known in contract law as an offer to treat.
But it takes two to tango when buying goods. ASDA had to agree to sell you the microwave at the offered price, and as they declined there was no enforceable contractual agreement which is why the manager rightly sent you packing.
However, it would have been a very different story had the checkout operator taken the money. Once it had passed through the till, ASDA would in effect have accepted your offer, and that would have been the end of the matter.
Q. I ordered a double wardrobe but when it was delivered I found the door started sticking and wouldn’t shut properly. I immediately called the shop and the manger offered a replacement if I returned the defective one. Can he insist I do that?
A. No. As the wardrobe is in fact faulty you’re entitled to reject it for a full refund within 30 days from the date of purchase.
If you agree instead to a replacement, then it is reasonable for the shop to come and collect the defective one at the same time they deliver the replacement.
As a strict matter of law, if any goods you buy are defective it is for the seller to collect them. A buyer is not compelled to take them back to the shop.
However, for obvious convenience it makes sense for the buyer to return them as long as the goods are not heavy or bulky.