/ Home & Energy

Brief cases: bungling firm bills for empty home

man holding energy bill

Energy company Eon billed Which? member Nancy Stephens £212 to pay for electricity and gas in a house where no one was living at the time. And it threatened her with legal action before Eon’s CEO intervened.

Mrs Stephens, who was moving from Frome in Somerset to Huddersfield, submitted final gas and electricity readings when she moved out of the Frome house on 3 September 2013. Her monthly direct debit had been taken on 2 September and she was then notified of the final bill of £121.18, which was paid by direct debit on 20 September.

That should have been the end of it, but she was then sent an estimated dual fuel bill of £212.75 for a period when the Frome property was empty, awaiting completion of the sale on 20 November.

Mrs Stephens wrote to Eon to say that, as the notification was sent to her new address, it must have received her final readings and therefore knew she had left the Frome property.

Eon failed to respond but, at the end of December, wrote to chase payment and threatened further action. She wrote back by special delivery, but in January Eon threatened legal action, saying she’d failed to give a genuine reason for not paying and said that costs would rise.

Which? Legal Service advises

Nancy Stephens

We advised Mrs Stephens to write to Eon’s chief executive, Tony Cocker, outlining what happened and asking him to investigate. We advised her to say she had the basis of a complaint to the ombudsman and would do so unless she was assured the matter was resolved and compensated for distress, inconvenience and expense.

Tony Cocker’s office said there had been an error by the advisers dealing with the account, which meant it hadn’t been closed correctly. It paid compensation for the errors and the cost of the recorded delivery postage. Mrs Stephens donated this to a local charity.

What the law says…

If you have a problem sorting out a complaint, the energy ombudsman may be able to help. If you’ve given a company a chance to put things right but your complaint is unresolved after eight weeks, or the company informs you it has reached its final position and you’re not satisfied, you can complain to the energy ombudsman. This gives an independent and impartial way to resolve disputes outside the courts.

If the ombudsman proposes a remedy you’re happy with, the company will be required to put it in place.

Have you ever had a bill from an energy supplier for gas and electricity you didn’t use?


No, but we have had a similar strange experience. We were billed by First Utility for gas and electricity on a tariff we didn’t use. This went on over several months until we finally left them and joined Ovo. First Utility’s customers services chose to ignore our protesting emails .We had to appoint the ombudsman to sort matters out. First Utility have told the ombudsman that “they may not have the facility to create an invoice to reference the required tariff” However, the ombudsman says in his final report ” I do not consider there is any reason why a final bill can not be produced.”I agree with the ombudsman as I have worked out the correct bill myself.(without a computer!). Should I offer my assistance to First Utility in creating a final bill?- after agreeing a suitable fee payable in advance!.

My daughter travels a lot. Her energy consumption is variable. She changed recently to Ebico (but now seems to be Scottish Hydro-Electric) to avoid standing charges. I submit regular meter readings but if the reading has not changed the website will not accept the reading.

‘Thank you for letting us know your meter reading. We can’t add it to your account at the moment. But don’t worry, the reading has been sent to an expert advisor to take a look at. Your account will be updated and we’ll be in touch if we need any further information.’

No-one contacts me and then an ‘estimated’ reading is then sent together with a bill requesting payment. I reply by regular emails pointing out the problem without a great deal of success. On one occasion they said the meter must be faulty and wanted to check it – they finally accepted that no electricity had been used.
I hate to think what would happen if I did not monitor her account.