Switching power suppliers should be a doddle. . . ERIC MUSGRAVE finds it anything but!
I AM BEING HELD HOSTAGE by my electricity supplier. I suppose I should have known to expect no better from Scottish Power after the fiasco a year ago when I requested the installation of a Smart Meter.
All I had wanted then was to have the redundant Economy 7 supply removed to enable me to get a simpler, better tariff.
Result? Scottish Power arranged and then cancelled at very short notice THREE appointments. When I complained they said they could not give me a date for install a Smart Meter in my postcode area.
So this year I decided to switch to another supplier, a newish entity called Bulb, the trading name of Regent Power. It should be easy to switch, say those government TV ads. Maybe they should tell that to my supplier because it’s another ‘No Can Do’ for Scottish Power!
Amazingly, I am being held to SP against my will because my house in Etal Village in Northumberland used to have storage heaters running on the old Economy 7 tariff that provided cheaper electricity during the night.
No one can tell me when the night storage heaters were removed, but they were not here when we took up residence in May 2018. Frustratingly, what is still here is a redundant power supply to the non-existent heaters.
What I have learned over months of trying to switch suppliers is that the National Grid has a database of the locations of all electricity meters in the country.
Most houses have just one meter that monitors one electricity supply. My house has one modern (but not Smart) meter but on that one meter two electricity supplies are monitored: the standard one and the non-existent Economy 7. So two meter numbers and two meter readings are listed in small figures on my electricity bill.
Confused? So am I.
Apparently, many houses around the UK have this odd and redundant set-up – called “related meters” – but modern online switching services can only cope with a single meter number being typed into the system.
Recently, a neighbour suggested I try Bulb after it successfully got round the ‘related meter’ problem for him. I contacted Bulb on 12 November and explained the situation. The young woman on the phone understood the situation immediately and said she would manually input both my meter numbers, thereby ensuring the switch from Scottish Power would go smoothly.
I was impressed; but I hadn’t reckoned on the overpowering inefficiency of Scottish Power!
The sequence of events thereafter is interesting: around November 15th I was cold-called called by SP asking if I’d like to review my tariff. I told them I was moving my account and ended the call. What had prompted that cold-call, I wondered?
On November 18th £115.08 was transferred by BACS from my bank account to Scottish Power’s to pay my latest bill. Yet on the 19th and the 20th I was called by SP to chase up that payment. While they were on the phone, I insisted they check that my payment had been received. Sure enough it had! They were chasing me for money I had already paid!
On November 19th, to add to this element of farce, I received a letter chasing me for the same amount. On the same day I received an email from the ever-efficient Bulb to inform me that SP had stopped my switch providers. Non-payment of a bill could be a cause, the email advised.
On November 20th, Bulb informed me that the switch had been cancelled, not just stopped. Annoyed, I took to Twitter (a useful way to gain attention these days!) and publicly vented my frustration. The Scottish Power social media team’s response was swift:
Thank you for sending this information over, Eric. I have looked into this for you and can confirm that we have objected to your switch as Regent Power have only applied to take over one of your supply numbers. In order to progress with your switch your new supplier would need to apply to take over the following meter supply numbers: 18000xxxx3720 and 18000xxxx2571 (Editor’s note- numbers partly redacted here for security). As you have two meter supply numbers for your property, your new supplier must register both of these for your transfer to be successful. – Eleanor
I was not impressed. From my first conversation with Bulb on November 12th Bulb had applied to switch both numbers. Nor was I impressed when I asked the social media team which of the two had not been applied for:
We don’t have access to this information, unfortunately. The system has registered that only one of the supply numbers has been requested to switch which has triggered the correspondence regarding this to be sent out. – Suzanne
So, according to Scottish Power, Bulb was at fault, but it could not tell me with reference to which of the two meters. The manager of the social media team called me to explain the ‘related meters’ problem and apologised for my inconvenience, but it did look like things were back on track.
On November 21st I received this email from Bulb:
I can see you’ve received an email from us about Scottish Power lifting the objection, meaning your electricity supply will be coming through to us on December 12. For clarity, this means that: Meter number 18000xxxx3720 will be supplied by us from 03/12/19. Meter number 18000xxxx2571 will be supplied by us from 12/12/19. This is reliant on Scottish Power not objecting to this switch again. If they do raise an objection, the best bet for us would be to cancel the switch completely then re-register for both supplies to come through on the same day. Hopefully it doesn’t come to this though.
I was impressed with the clarity and the precise detail on the message. It compared very well with the service I had been getting from Scottish Power.
On November 22nd, Bulb told me “everything’s going swimmingly”. They were mis-informed. On November 26th, two weeks to the day that I first spoke to Bulb, the company informed me that Scottish Power had stopped the switch.
SP’s reason this time? I had owed £115.08 when the initial application was made on 12 November! This, of course, was different to the earlier objection that only one meter had been applied for.
Infuriatingly, Scottish Power’s system can chase me for money even after the bill has been paid but cannot keep up with overcoming objections on a switching process. Now I am waiting for Bulb to start the process once more.
In the meantime, I am stuck with a supplier with whom I don’t want to deal, a two-meter system I don’t want, and a Scottish Power tariff that is costing me money.
Comments from fellow Scottish Power sufferers I have received via social media suggest I may be in for a very long haul. One pal who spent a year arguing with Scottish Power before winning a paltry compensation payment told me: “I hope you get resolution, Eric, but I am not optimistic. They are totally inept.”
What an absolute shambles, Scottish Power!. Your departments seem wildly unconnected, expert only in finding any reason to delay customers from switching to another supplier.
But at least one of its systems works. On November 21st, just 52 minutes after an exchange with its social media team on Twitter, I received this message:
If you wouldn’t mind, we’d appreciate your quick feedback on our service today.
I have yet to respond!
While Eric Musgrave mulls his (presumably colourful!) feedback message to Scottish Power, our IT expert DAVID JEFFRIES offers his own dire warning about the headlong rush to Smart Meters. . .
HERE’S THE TRUTH about Smart Meters: – they are not smart and they won’t save you money. Do NOT get one fitted!
Don’t agree? Can’t believe what I’m saying? Okay, here are some troubling facts about the latest technology that ‘they’ tell us will revolutionise household electricity and gas meters and help us all save a ton of cash.
What a Smart Meter does best is to electronically record your energy use and send this data to your supplier. That’s the theory… so where is the benefit to you, the consumer? None whatsoever, in my opinion. And here’s why:
Most meters currently being fitted are ‘Smart-1’, which might work with your current utilities provider’s equipment but will probably NOT work if you change provider.
More than half of the new meters are apparently giving inaccurate readings and some are so badly fitted they could constitute a fire hazard.
So where IS the benefit? Well, you will know how much you are spending on energy at any given moment, however useful you think that might be. After all, are homeowners who pay their bills by direct debit going to radically change energy usage habits when the estimated annual saving is expected to be a massive £11? I very much doubt it.
Worse still, there are now estimates that if you take into account the Smart Meter fitting time, the chance it may be ‘dumb’, dangerous or inaccurate, the build costs of the meter and the environmental impact then the overall energy ‘saving’ goes into the negative.
So who REALLY benefits from knowing the absolute costs of usage and accuracy of billing? Your energy provider more than you! Better knowledge of your usage habits means they can bill more accurately: I, for instance, pay by DD and I submit my reading once a quarter or so, at which time my provider works out my bill and debits my bank account according to whether I’ve used more or less energy than the amount for we our mutually budgeted.
Imagine, then, that I have underpaid for the last quarter: that means the money difference is in my bank, not theirs. Taken across the whole customer range then the energy company might be out of pocket by several millions at any given point: advantage Jeffries and my like-minded meter mutineers, NOT the energy company!
Conclusion: data monitored 24/7 through my meter allows minutely accurate readings and allows energy companies to act like Big Brother, knowing when you are using most energy and charging accordingly.
Who needs it? NOT ME!
So why are Energy companies pushing Smart meters so hard? Well Energy suppliers agreed with GOV to fit the meters and oue suppliers are panicking because they are not fitting them quickly enough and GOV is asking why no one wants them and why don’t they work and why are there are no benefits for the consumer??
Energy companies have resorted to scare tactics, emails saying your current meter is old or going to fail, phone calls saying they are in your area and when could they fit your new meter, texts saying call us now we want to fit your meter etc… and most recently I’ve heard of elderly customers being told it’s a requirement or they will be cut off, the call centres are doing anything to get a meter in except pay us to put in a meter that benefits them!
Resist People, resist and if you cant then ask these questions, “do you guarantee this meter is smart 2 compatible? And how exactly will this meter benefit me and save me money” if they cant either of these questions intelligently then ask them politely to go away!
If you want independent advce around Technology you know who to call and it isn’t Ghost Busters….
Tel: 016973 61066