A pensioner spent years paying her neighbour’s energy bills after her supplier failed to investigate a meter error.
Judith Stenner, 72, from Manchester, was horrified when her energy bills leapt from £60 a month to more than £400. When she challenged the inexplicably high bills, Scottish Power told her she was a “high energy user”.
The retired midwife tried desperately to cut her energy usage by cooking at home less and turning off her heating during the winter – but her bills kept rising.
Ms Stenner attempted to challenge the bills on a number of occasions, but her pleas to ScottishPower went unheard.
“I’ve gone past crying, I’ve gone past shouting, you just go into a numb phase that nobody is believing you and nobody is listening, what am I going to do,” she told the PA news agency.
It was only after Ms Stenner contacted her local MP that Scottish Power investigated the issue at the start of this summer and discovered that she had been paying the energy bills of a neighbouring family of four ever since they moved in almost six years ago.
Even after identifying the meter error, it took ScottishPower 14 weeks to correct it.
Afzal Khan, Ms Stenner’s MP, who raised her case in the House of Commons, said Scottish Power’s delay was “unacceptable”. Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt called it an “appalling situation”.
Scottish Power has apologised to Ms Stenner and promised to refund the overpayments and provide her with compensation.
‘My life has been on hold’
Mr Khan said: “I’m grateful that Scottish Power have finally listened and taken action, but quite frankly, it is too little, too late. When utility providers get things wrong and receive complaints from their customers, they should jump to action immediately to investigate.
“We should never have a situation where a vulnerable person doesn’t turn their heating on in one of the coldest winters because her energy company isn’t listening to her. It shouldn’t take my office months of trying to get through to Scottish Power and ultimately having to complain about them to the Government from the Commons to get them to listen.”
Ms Stenner said: “It’s been frustrating, not to be heard, not to be listened to, it’s damaged me financially, my life has probably been on a bit of a hold because I’ve done a lot of things, but more than that it’s the wider issue of company policy, inefficiency, bad training, bad management.”
Semra Kurutac, her daughter, from Wiltshire, said: “Mum’s had electricians round to check her appliances in her flat, she’s even gone and got a new immersion heater installed that we now know was completely unnecessary.
“But in the winter months her bills last year got up to just over £400-a-month and we calculated – we’ve been taking readings ever since we got involved in April – that her bills, including standing charge, shouldn’t be much more than £80-a-month based on her current usage.”
Ms Kurutac understands that the neighbouring family were paying her mother’s £60-to-£80 monthly bill, though Scottish Power said it could not confirm this.
Mr Khan said: “Scottish Power must use this case to overhaul their complaints processes to make sure they are working for their customers, not against them.”
A Scottish Power spokesman said: “We’re really sorry about the issues and distress experienced by Mr Khan’s constituent, which is unacceptable and falls far below the level of service we aim to provide.
“Since we visited the property and identified the crossed meter issue at the start of the summer, we’ve been working with the other energy supplier involved - who also had to take certain actions - to get this matter sorted as quickly as possible.
“We’re now at the point where we will be able to accurately calculate the constituent’s actual energy usage and costs and we are in touch with her directly and with Mr Khan’s office.
“We apologise again that it has taken longer than we would have liked to resolve this matter.”
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