Tony Stalker prides himself on being a bit of a canny consumer. He’s never shy of switching suppliers if he can get a better deal.
Last August the 71-year-old retired engineer from Lee-on-the-Solent decided to switch energy providers from Ovo to Scottish Power after he experienced some refund billing issues.
He’d taken on board all the hype about how easy and painless it was to change energy suppliers and he had no qualms about making the move.
Tony went online to a web comparison site to switch.
His decision was influenced in their favour because there was no cancellation fee, and if he wasn’t happy with them he could switch again without incurring a penalty.
But it soon became clear all was not well when Scottish Power gave him confusing information about the switchover, and why it was taking so long for Ovo to give him the anticipated refund.
Tony said: ‘After a couple of months I was expecting money to be coming back from Ovo, but was told that the area we were living in was controlled by a private gas contractor so that’s why it was taking longer.’
Behind the scenes however something more profound was going on. There was a dispute over the gas meter readings obstructing the switch from Ovo to Scottish Power.
In reality both companies and the distributor were at loggerheads leaving him stuck in limbo between the two energy suppliers, being passed from pillar to post.
Tony recalled that previously he had been used to sending his meter readings in online, but for some reason for the first few months he couldn’t access his Scottish Power meter reading page and had to phone the readings in. They also put him on a temporary payment plan.
He had already suspected Scottish Power may have bungled the initial handover meter readings but when he rang them to complain they refused to listen and blamed Ovo.
As the weeks turned into months the dispute continued to be batted backwards and forwards between both providers.
Stroke victim Tony admitted after six months of fruitless complaining it was wearing him down and the stress was becoming a problem he could well do without.
His wife Shirley had read the Streetwise pages and suggested he got in touch to see if we could help him sort it out.
We soon discovered that the entire switchover process had been botched beyond belief.
Because of the internal dispute, the switch had never taken place.
Both firms had been playing shuttlecock with his complaint allowing it to slip off their radar with no one willing make a decision or take responsibility for getting it sorted.
To their credit Ovo admitted that the way Tony’s problem had been handled did not reflect well on the company.
A spokesperson said: ‘We apologise that this process has taken a number of months and caused Mr Stalker undue concern.
‘We have been working hard to ensure Mr Stalker’s meter readings were correct, both at our end and with his new energy provider so that he was not billed incorrectly. This has clearly taken too long. We have now agreed in principle the closing and opening meter readings with his new energy provider and refunded the outstanding balance on Mr Stalker’s account with us.
‘This will be in his bank account shortly, along with a goodwill payment for the inconvenience caused. Once we have confirmation from all parties that the switch has taken place we will close Mr Stalker’s Ovo account.
‘We are very sorry that on this occasion Mr Stalker’s experience with us fell short of our high customer service standards.’
A relived Tony told Streetwise that despite his negative switching experience he hoped it wouldn’t deter readers from continuing to shop around for the best energy deal.
He said: ‘I wouldn’t want to put anyone off, especially elderly people, from switching energy providers because they won’t get the benefit of a reduction and consequently could be on a far more expensive tariff.’