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What does the crumbling of GB Energy Supply mean for its customers?

pulling plug on energy supply

At the weekend, GB Energy Supply collapsed. While the energy regulator, Ofgem, is transitioning its 160,000 customers onto a new supplier, we’re joined by guest author and GB Energy Supply customer, Liz Ford, who shares her take on the situation.

I’ve been a customer of GB Energy Supply since the summer.

Being two pensioners, we try to stay on top of our bills and make sure we make the most out of the best deals on offer.

I switched to GB Energy Supply after seeing that it was offering a reasonable tariff.

I took reviews of its service into consideration and knew a customer of the provider who was happy with it. All seemed fine, so I went ahead and locked into a fixed one-year tariff and set up quarterly bills.

Missing bill

Last week, I telephoned GB Energy Supply’s customer service team because I hadn’t received my latest bill.

I’d logged onto my account online, but while the meter reading was there, the bill wasn’t. Something wasn’t right – it should’ve been there at the beginning of the month.

After speaking to the customer service team, I was sent a bill via email and discovered I was £134 in credit.

Knowing that GB Energy Supply owed me money, I relaxed a bit, as I thought the bill would balance out.

Company collapse

Then on Saturday night, a friend (and former GB Energy Supply customer) rang me to tell me about the company collapsing.

I checked my emails to see if I’d had any contact from GB Energy Supply and saw one telling me that the company had collapsed and to contact Ofgem for more information.

It wasn’t until Monday that I started to get actual advice from the likes of Which? and the media on what is going on and what to do next.

Transition process

Being in credit has left me wondering when and how I’ll get my money back. To be honest, I’ve got little faith in how this process will work out.

I know that Ofgem is handling the moving of GB Energy Supply’s customers onto a new supplier, but I’m not comfortable that it’ll be a smooth process for us at all.

And I can’t help but wonder who’s going to take on all these 160,000 customers that now need a new energy supplier. I’m not sure how any new supplier’s customer services team will be able to cope with a sudden influx of 160,000 customers… all trying to get the best deal available. That is, I suppose, unless it’s a one of the Big Six suppliers.

Having to balance my bills, I do worry that the new supplier won’t be able to honour the arrangement I’d had with GB Energy Supply either, so I’ll definitely be calling it to make sure I’m on the best tariff available to me.

This is a guest contribution by Liz Ford, a customer of GB Energy Supply. All views expressed here are Liz’s own and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.

Were you a GB Energy Supply customer before it crumbled? How do you feel about the way its collapse is being handled? Are you concerned about the situation?

Comments
Guest
Gerry says:
29 November 2016

There are two things Ofgem needs to do urgently.

1. Insist that all energy suppliers also offer a VARIABLE Direct Debit option. This will do away with the nonsense of building up a large credit balance that is then at risk when the company collapses or the customer moves to a different supplier. It will make bills far clearer and make it easier to notice unexpectedly high consumption in a timely manner. Of course, those that prefer Fixed Direct Debits should still have them.

2. Stop Places for People Energy and Iresa deliberately misrepresenting the costs of Economy 7 tariffs on their websites. The claim to offer quotations, but they are only biased guesses because they do not ask for Day and Night usage, only the total. They then assume unrealistically high night usage which means that customers will be significantly overcharged. PPE claims 55% but in my case they assumed an impossible 68%. Iresa assumes 40%. By appearing far cheaper than they really are, this gives them an unfair advantage over their honest competitors who give accurate quotations based on separate Day and Night E7 readings.

I put these overcharging scams personally to Ofgem’s Chief Executive Demot Nolan two months ago at a Which? consultation at the IET in Savoy Place. He agreed that it was completely wrong, but nothing has happened. Can Which? please give him a sharp nudge?

Guest

One thing this company excelled at was taking money and creating large credit balances on customers accounts.
When the 30% tarriff increase happened last month many people did the sensible thing and switched supplier.
However – getting their overpayments refunded was met with stonewalling.
It wil be interesting to see if Ofgem lives up to its promise of protecting customers credit balances.

Guest
Steve M says:
1 December 2016

Same issue – multiple requests for a refund of big credit balance ignored over the last 6 months. Met their guys who had a stand t a show in Scotland. Complained personally and received a call the following week saying I would receive refund in 7 to 10 days. Then, nothing heard until collapse announced!

Guest

I believe that the first priority should be to ensure that customers of GB Energy Supply and any other companies that fail should not lose their money. Maybe we need something like the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, especially since customers are often forced into having substantial credit balances unless they take regular action.

Far more serious, in my opinion, is the problem of many customers on expensive tariffs. Those of us who keep on top of their outgoings can switch to cheaper tariffs or suppliers, but this means higher prices for those who do not. This will include the vulnerable. I have no problem with switching and haggling for luxury goods but energy is vital for us all. It’s a national disgrace and I suggest that if we care about anyone other than ourselves, it’s time to look at the energy industry with a view to bringing fair prices to everyone.

Like Gerry and Ian, I would like to pay what I owe rather build up a credit balance, though I appreciate that many find it useful to have fixed monthly payments for budgeting purposes. At least Ovo pays interest on credit balances.

Guest

It has emerged this evening that Ofgem has selected The Co-operative Energy to take over all of G B Energy Supply’s customers. This was based on “a competitive process to get the best deal possible”.

Ofgem has said that the cost of protecting customers’ balances would be funded partly by The Co-operative Energy and partly by its (Ofgem’s) safety net, funded by a levy paid by all energy firms. The Co-operative Energy has said that it would contact all GB Energy Supply’s customers over the coming days with information on their tariff and credit balance. It also said that any credit on current customers’ accounts would be used to offset future energy use.

This is a better outcome than might have occurred. All GB Energy Supply’s staff will be transferred to The Co-operative Energy on their existing terms and conditions of service; that will at least ensure continuity and adequate customer service and support while The Co-operative Energy absorbs the additional business. Whether any of G B Energy Supply’s energy contracts will transfer to The Co-operative Energy has not been revealed but presumably not as they will form part of the liquidation or administration of the company as potentially tradeable assets.

I have read nothing about people who are in arrears with G B Energy Supply. Presumably the liquidator or administrator will be pursuing such debts but with possibly less tolerance than the company was likely to have done.

Guest

Ofgem say “Co-operative Energy is offering GB Energy Supply’s customers the same price as they were paying before, both for customers on fixed deals and on standard variable tariffs. If customers wish to change their tariff, they should ask Co-operative Energy to switch to another deal, or shop around. No exit fees will be charged.”

Guest

Wavechange – I was wondering whether you had a view on the image selected to head this Conversation?

Guest

It looks as if someone is pulling a cable connected to a plug, confirmed by the image name ‘pull-plug’. That’s naughty to show poor practice. Apart from that, the screw heads are not aligned, which is aesthetically wrong.