As more evidence on nPower’s poor customer handling and business practises come to light, it seems that merely switching over to another provider may not be the solution for a nPower customer.
Several customers who switched from nPower to another energy provider reported that the firm has failed to refund them for overpaid bills, which are typically worth hundreds of pounds. Money Mail revealed that it had received complaints from several customers of nPower who had not been refunded for over six months.
The energy provider had a variety of excuses to provide, ranging from computer errors to disputes with other suppliers. The company continued to swerve complaints and due refunds in many instances.
One case involves Roger Handley, 65, living with his 61-year-old wife Su, in Surrey. They switched their energy provider from nPower to Sainsbury’s Energy. While nPower should have been prompt in refunding them with over £1,170 that it owed, the company made them wait over 148 days.
The couple had been with the company for over ten years and made the decision to switch a few months after bills for more than £300 started coming in every month.
A month after switching providers, Mr. Handley received a bill indicating that he was owed £1,156 by the company. Upon contacting nPower 45 days after getting the bill, Roger was told to wait for another twenty-eight days to get the final bill and another twenty-eight days to refund it. However, he was still waiting even after three months for their final bill.
Many customers have a direct debit set up for making energy bill payments. The energy company calculates an estimated amount of electricity and gas the customer is likely to use in the coming year. This amount is then divided into 12 equal payments for each month. However, consumption is not constant throughout the year.
Households consume significantly less energy in the summer months with the heating system turned off, leading to the account being in credit. During the winter, more power utilisation means using up the surplus. In an ideal scenario, the customer would break even at the end of the year.
At year’s end, if the account stays in credit when switching suppliers, they should be provided with a refund.
As per industry regulator Ofgem, consumers can request a refund at any time if their account is in credit. The energy supplier is obligated to reimburse the excess amount.
nPower claims that it processes all refunds 28 days after receiving a final meter reading. The repayments should be credited soon after the process is completed. Investigations by a news agency revealed that its customers are not getting their final bills after waiting for the number of days indicated. The firm can thus sit on their cash for a more extended period.
A similar scenario happened to Tony and Celia Stevens from Hampshire. After switching to Sainsbury’s Energy, they had to wait for over four months to receive the £500 that nPower owed to them. However, their account was over £700 in credit when they switched over. The refund was only credited after they complained to the Energy Ombudsman months later.
Tom Lyon of uSwitch, a price comparison website, stated that delaying customers’ cash for long periods and delivering final bills late deters customers from switching providers and decreases their trust in the industry. It is crucial that Ofgem takes notice of these cases and shut down such practises.
Customers are at the short end of the stick when attempting to get a better deal because nPower failed to pay refunds. A spokesperson from the firm said that their new billing systems had affected many customers. It’s unclear yet whether they could resolve these issues before Ofgem decides to step up on the matter.