Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, essential services such as power companies have a responsibility to ensure that people do not have to worry about their electricity and gas supplies.
However, Big Six energy supplier nPower has become a source of worry and stress for customers due to repeated blunders in billing. Several consumers were overcharged on energy bills, which has added to the already dire situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There have been many complaints against nPower over the years, but this incident deserves a special mention. One consumer was moving houses and gave nPower the final meter readings beforehand. They also settled outstanding balances promptly after every billing statement.
The customer then applied for a new account, paying a £50 deposit. After nine months, they decided to switch to a different energy provider. They realized after receiving the final bill that the deposit wasn’t refunded to them.
Upon contacting nPower, the customer was informed that their account was in debt. It took them by surprise, considering that their payments have been updated since the start.
nPower provided them a ‘revised’ final settlement of over £2,800 for the account that was closed for over a year already. The bill had a series of several credits and debits— indicating that the company’s billing management is questionable.
Five months after the account was closed, it had two credits of about £15,000 and multiple debits totalling over £22,000. It was followed by a third revised statement for an amount of £2,510. The meter readings for 2012-2014 had been adjusted. It made it impossible for the customer to challenge the revised bill as no one retains such records for six to seven years.
Suppliers are not permitted to demand unbilled energy usage for older than 12 months. However- nPower, in this case, claimed these charges to be justified as they had provided ‘reissued’ statements and bills. The purpose of this ban on back-billing is to ensure that suppliers do not find mistakes years later and unexpectedly charge the customers.
This case is only one of the bizarre instances of nPower’s billing blunders.
A customer under nPower’s dual-fuel plan decided to switch due to the provider’s chaotic billing practises. The customer reached out to a representative in mid-July explaining the scenario and getting assurance from the firm that they would only be charged based on actual usage until they move out in October.
However, a few months later, nPower denied that any such assurance was provided, billing the customer over £600 for electricity between June and October. While nPower was quick to admit that service had been deficient, a resolution was not provided as quickly. The energy provider failed to update the customer’s account with the right tariff at the soonest possible time, further delaying the receipt of the correct bill.
These two incidents are not the only blunders as there have been multiple complaints against nPower’s billing practises. In 2015, the company had to pay a £26 million fine levied by the market regulator Ofgem for their chaotic bill management system. nPower has been repeatedly criticised for not admitting its errors until bad publicity is imminent. Customers are thus left frustrated and harassed.
regulator Ofgem for their chaotic bill management system. nPower has been repeatedly criticised for not admitting its errors until bad publicity is imminent. Customers are thus left frustrated and harassed.
While there has been no immediate respite yet, customers must ensure that all forms of complaints and related communications with nPower are recorded in case of billing disputes. Also, they must ask for proof or bill of any charge levied on them.
Customers must also keep a record of all bills and meter readings as they can help resolve such issues. In case the resolution provided by the energy supplier is not satisfactory, customers also have the option of reaching out to Ofgem, the market regulator. The complaint would then be subjected to an independent and free review of the case.