Pensioner Marjorie Vass admits to being a bit of a canny silver surfer. She’s always on the lookout for a better deal.
So when the 78-year-old former post office counter clerk decided to slash her energy costs and upgrade the heating system in her Southsea home, she knew just where to go to buy off-peak white meter storage heaters.
All I kept getting was letters to tell me they were dealing with the matter, but no-one ever came back to me about it
But buying the heaters was to be just the start of her troubles.
‘They were installed the January before last,’ explained Marjorie. ‘But as I didn’t have a white off-peak meter, my gas and electric company ScottishPower came and fitted one for me.’
‘I’d been with the firm for quite a few years and had been paying £115 a month by standing order to cover our dual fuel costs.
‘When they fitted the white meter they offered me cheaper electricity if I agreed to set up a direct debit, which seemed like a good idea at the time.
‘Shortly afterwards I received a letter welcoming me as a new customer.
‘I thought it rather odd, but dismissed it as referring to the white meter installation.
Marjorie added: ‘Then in February the new meter went wrong and the heating wouldn’t stay on just as the winter was tightening its grip.
‘I told them about it straight away and had to get back to them on countless occasions because no-one was responding to my calls.
‘All I kept getting was letters to tell me they were dealing with the matter, but no-one ever came back to me about it.’
However, little did Marjorie know she had another problem with the energy giant in the making.
She had carried on with her monthly payments through the bank despite the fact that her electricity consumption was well down on previous billing intervals.
And, worryingly, her bills weren’t going down – quite the reverse. On checking her bank statements she discovered she’d been paying twice for her electricity because in all the confusion with the white meter installation she hadn’t cancelled the original standing order.
When she finally cancelled it she calculated she was in credit by more than £1,400. But after five months ScottishPower still hadn’t sorted the defective meter problem, so she decided it was high time to take drastic action and cancelled the direct debit as well.
Then as if to add insult to injury, the power giant took a further unauthorised payment for £115 from her bank account. She told her bank about it and after yet more argy bargy she got the money back.
What with the heating still not fixed and the stress of being unable to get anyone from the company to respond to her predicament, Marjorie started to experience sleepless nights.
After more phone calls and some 15 e-mails later, she was at the end of her tether.
A friend had told her about Streetwise so, having decided she had nothing to lose, she contacted us to see if we could help out.
Marjorie said all she was asking for wasn’t remotely in the realms of rocket science. She wanted the problem fixed, reasonable recompense and her overpayments refunded.
Our research uncovered a history of poor customer care by ScottishPower, which last March resulted in the regulator Ofgem taking punitive action for it not making sufficient improvements in customer complaint handling.
But after we got in touch with them about their breach of contract, it wasn’t long before we got Marjorie’s problem fixed.
A spokesperson said: ‘We were sorry to learn Mrs Vass has not experienced the service from us she was entitled to expect and for the distress this has caused.
‘A replacement off-peak meter has already been fitted. We’ve also waived all charges for the period where her storage heaters weren’t working or malfunctioning and refunded her overpayments.’
A delighted Marjorie said: ‘After trying for many months to get my complaint sorted without success, as soon as I contacted Streetwise I got a letter of apology, the meter sorted, compensation and my overpayments refunded.
‘I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you for resolving our problem in a few days, something which my husband and I had failed to achieve despite months of trying.’