Scottish Power sold Jim Parkyn a top notch all year round boiler care and heating plan but after the promised service didn’t come up to scratch he soon got hot under the collar.
A longstanding loyal customer, the peace of mind maintenance and support deal sounded right up his street, so he signed up to the annual £197 payment without a moment’s hesitation.
Scottish Power promised the 85-year-old Whitley pensioner an annual service check. If the boiler broke down or the heating system went on the blink a trained gas safe engineer would promptly turn up and fix it.
But Jim is fuming about enduring service problems and routine broken appointments since a new boiler was installed in his three bedroom home five years ago.
He said: ‘Their service is a shambles. I’ve had problems with them right from the start. As a widower who lives alone a reliable hot water and heating system is important to me.
‘The first clash came just two years into the contract when I noticed some radiators weren’t heating up properly and the boiler started to make a low-pitched rumbling noise.
‘When the engineer arrived he looked the boiler over and said the noise level was within Valliant’s acceptable tolerance and the trouble was all down to not having the system power flushed before the boiler was installed.
‘I paid a local plumbing firm £520 to flush the system through but it didn’t make a blind bit of difference.
‘Engineers kept diagnosing different problems every time and didn’t really seem to know what was wrong.
‘Finally one engineer said there was a problem with the burner and the heat exchanger might need replacing, a job that despite the age of the boiler would probably prove uneconomic as the cost would be in the region of £700.
‘To say I was gutted was an understatement. I got onto the manufacturer whose engineer immediately diagnosed a faulty pump bearing and two defective radiator thermostats.
‘The pump was replaced under their product guarantee, and the local plumber replaced the duff thermostats for £90.
‘I was disgusted so I put in a claim for the cost of the flushing and the stats but ended up in a completely abortive conversation with their complaints people who after more than 18 months wrangling just stopped talking to me.
‘Even more annoying, every year I’ve had to call them repeatedly about the annual service as no one ever turns up as arranged.
‘Last year’s service for example was in February making this year’s service due in March at the latest..
‘I’ve had to call them repeatedly since April and no less than four service appointment were cancelled just a day before the engineer was due to turn up.
‘I’ve sent letters and emails to complain but I’ve not even had the courtesy of an acknowledgement.
‘The thing is you can complain until you’re blue in the face but nobody at the firm listens to you. There’s not even the slightest hint of an apology.
I’m at my wits’ end with it all. It’s a rip-off - they’re taking money under false pretences.’
Streetwise agreed to look into Jim’s’ case and went through our routine background checks.
We quickly discovered that the all singing dancing boiler plan he had been persuaded to take out was actually administered by Domestic and General, a white goods insurance company specialising in domestic appliance repairs.
Literally hundreds of online reviews were critical of the company’s service, despite management claiming customer satisfaction was at the heart of everything they do.
Consumer watchdog Which? awarded Scottish Power’s boiler care as the lowest-rated provider. Their 2017 survey concluded it was best avoided.
They said: ‘Scottish Power earned a lowly 39% in our latest boiler cover customer satisfaction survey, and it’s the only provider to receive lower than three stars for customer service. In fact, it didn't manage more than two stars on any measure:’
We sent the Spanish-owned energy giant a copy of Jim’s detailed record of service mismanagement and asked them to comment.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are sincerely sorry that Mr Parkyn has had difficulty arranging his annual service and for any failings in service delivery.
‘Unfortunately we were unable to comply with his request for the annual service to be done at a specific time due to a regrettable lack of workforce availability.
‘We have arranged to carry out his annual service within the next two weeks and an appointment has been agreed with him.
‘As a gesture of goodwill we have also refunded £250 towards the cost of the power flushing, and by way of an apology his annual premium of £197.’
When Streetwise gave Jim the good news, he was relieved that following our intervention he’d finally received a favourable response.
‘I had a very long and constructive conversation with one of their senior customer support staff’, he said, ‘and I believe they were genuinely sorry for the way I’d been treated and let down.
‘I was beginning to think my only option was just to cancel the policy and walk away, but I would have been clobbered with a cancellation fee adding insult to injury.
‘That still remains an option for any future problems but I have no doubt I wouldn’t have ended up where we are now if it hadn’t been for Streetwise.’