Pamela Welch was terrified when she acquired a £1,200 vitality invoice from her provider Ovo Vitality.
The 84-year-old, from Bracknell, Berkshire, was so apprehensive about operating up extra prices that she began to go to mattress at 7.30pm to keep away from utilizing any heating or home equipment within the night.
Pamela’s nephew Steve Seaside, who helps her along with her payments, says that from the time she acquired that first horrifying invoice this March to July, Pamela’s money owed to Ovo escalated to greater than £4,000, although she used little or no fuel and electrical energy.
Initially Pamela did not pay the invoice that she could not afford, as she knew she did not owe that sum.
Though Steve tried to cause with Ovo on Pamela’s behalf, she was nonetheless despatched worrying debt assortment letters.
Chaos: Sarah Robinson (pictured), a paediatric nurse, has been left with no heating, scorching water, mild or any technique of cooking for days following Ovo Vitality bungles.
‘She’s actually starting to panic — a lot in order that, as she retains getting these letters, within the final couple of months she has despatched two cheques for £500 within the hope that it will cease them,’ says Steve.
After we contacted Ovo, it stated that Pamela had a dual-rate good meter put in in Could 2021, which allowed her to pay one tariff for her daytime use and a second, cheaper tariff for off-peak utilization. However the meter had solely been recording one fee, which resulted within the incorrect payments.
It apologised for not addressing the issue sooner, and stated debt assortment exercise had been placed on maintain.
However as Pamela and Steve have taken Ovo to the ombudsman to dispute the costs, it says it’s going to wait till that course of was concluded to take additional motion.
Pamela is amongst tons of of Ovo Vitality prospects who’ve written to Cash Mail and our sister web site thisismoney.co.uk in latest months about billing errors.
In lots of instances, prospects are receiving payments which are tons of, and even 1000’s, of kilos increased than they consider they need to be.
They’ve additionally confronted critical disruption to their lives. Some have been left with no heating or electrical energy, or have fallen behind with work as a consequence of hours spent on the telephone to Ovo making an attempt to resolve their billing issues.
A number of inform of the toll it has taken on their psychological well being, and one buyer advised us his woes had left him considering suicide.
What has gone awry?
The vast majority of readers who’ve contacted us had been among the many 3.5 million former prospects of vitality provider SSE.
They had been transferred from SSE, previously often called Southern Electrical, when Ovo purchased that provider’s retail arm in 2020 and catapulted itself from a small provider into one of many massive six UK vitality corporations in a single day.
When prospects had been switched from SSE to Ovo, their payments had been sometimes topic to an ‘adjustment’ — in different phrases, the distinction between what SSE stated they owed and what their new provider Ovo believes is due.
These changes change the general steadiness of the account and happen when Ovo Vitality believes former SSE prospects have underpaid or if it disputes their remaining steadiness with SSE.
Nonetheless, on copies of Ovo payments we now have seen, the explanation for an adjustment is just not defined. This will trigger misery for purchasers, as they don’t seem to be advised why their invoice has elevated and so have no idea whether or not it’s more likely to occur once more.
Additionally they have little data with which to contest the invoice in the event that they assume it’s incorrect.
Barbara Nicholson, a weak 86-year-old from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, acquired a £6,000 steadiness adjustment from Ovo.
Barbara’s son, Gary, says: ‘She acquired no correspondence about this to warn her of such a dramatic invoice, nor any rationalization.’
Frozen out: Some prospects have been left with no heating or electrical energy, or have fallen behind with work as a consequence of hours spent on the telephone to Ovo (file image)
He says that his mom was greater than £1,000 in credit score when she switched from SSE. However she had a brand new meter fitted in June after she moved to Ovo, and was charged double that month, for the steadiness on each her previous and new meter.
Gary says his mom’s fuel utilization has been ‘frequently overestimated’ since Ovo took over.
‘My mom lives on her personal. She doesn’t prepare dinner however eats microwave meals. She solely makes use of the washer about twice per week, and she or he goes to mattress early, so all of the lights and TV are switched off,’ he says.
‘She can’t climb the steps, so doesn’t use the upstairs degree of her house and, as such, she can’t use the bathtub or bathe. She simply has a wash, so is utilizing little or no vitality.
‘And but, her direct debit is much increased than my very own and I stay with my spouse in a four-bedroom home.
‘My mom is distraught — she thinks her vitality goes to be disconnected, as she can’t afford the excellent debt of £5,000 that Ovo has instructed she owes.
‘I believe that many older folks have been scared and simply paid it, particularly if they don’t have any household round to understand it’s unsuitable.’
When the Vitality Ombudsman received concerned, the £5,000 cost was faraway from her invoice — however this nonetheless left £1,000 of credit score unaccounted for.
We contacted Ovo, which stated the issue had been fastened and Barbara is now almost £1,800 in credit score.
I misplaced my provide thrice
Sarah Robinson, 38, a paediatric nurse, has been left with no heating, scorching water, mild or any technique of cooking for days following Ovo Vitality bungles.
She switched from direct debit to a prepayment meter in January and acquired a remaining invoice on her direct debit account for £952 — adopted by one other in June for £1,800.
She says her electrical energy provide has been reduce off thrice this yr. The primary time was after she tried to modify again to a direct debit tariff when she discovered the pre-payment fees dearer.
‘The member of workers stated they’d change me over remotely, however my electrical energy was then reduce off,’ says Sarah. ‘I referred to as they usually stated they weren’t in a position to change me to month-to-month funds, and that I used to be unable to high up my pay-as-you-go for seven days because of the tried change.
‘I requested them what I ought to do, they usually stated there was nothing I might do.’
On two different events, she tried to high up her pay-as-you-go meter however there was a fault with Ovo’s system, leaving her unable to high up both by way of the app or by telephone. The second time an engineer wanted to come back to her property to reconnect the provision, which she says took 5 days.
She provides: ‘I’m a nurse with little cash, and these issues with Ovo have been worrying me to the purpose of sleep deprivation and my psychological well being has been struggling.
‘I’ve spent hours on the telephone being transferred from one division to a different, talking to unhelpful and impolite members of the Ovo crew.
‘I used to be left with no heating, scorching water, mild or any technique of cooking. I’ve needed to transfer out of my flat on three separate events.
‘I’ve spent tons of of kilos on lodging and changing spoilt fridge and freezer objects. No person at Ovo appeared to care. The truth is, I even had one woman snort at me down the telephone.’
After we received in contact with Ovo about Sarah’s case, it reviewed the utilization on her good meter and amended her invoice. Her excellent steadiness fell to £882.71 after a goodwill cost was additionally utilized.
Overcharged: Many Ovo Vitality prospects are receiving payments tons of and even 1000’s of kilos increased than they consider they owe
I’ve received one other particular person’s debt
Jane Smith, 72, had her account switched from SSE to Ovo earlier this yr. However since then, she has acquired payments registered to a stranger with a distinct title and account quantity.
Jane, whose title we now have modified at her request, claims that Ovo refused to talk to her or change the title on the account because it claimed she did not have an Ovo account in her personal title. ‘Ovo has made my life a distress for seven months,’ she says. ‘I have not slept or eaten correctly and have misplaced contact with associates.
‘Ovo threatens me with debt collectors for cash I do not owe. I’ve by no means even had a parking ticket, far much less not paid a invoice I owe.’
When she did lastly get an account in her personal title, Jane believes the debt on the opposite particular person’s account was transferred over to hers — and she or he was advised she could be referred to a debt assortment company. She took her case to the ombudsman at across the identical time that we contacted Ovo on her behalf.
Ovo finally admitted its mistake, closed the account that wasn’t hers and paid £250 as a goodwill gesture in late September. However that £250 got here off the invoice that Jane does not assume she owes, so she argues that this isn’t correct compensation.
Jane thinks her invoice was increased than it ought to have been, however has determined to pay it off so she might change her provider.
‘I’ve come to the purpose the place I will need to pay any person else’s invoice for far more cash than I can afford,’ she says. ‘I should borrow it and pay it again simply in order I can get away from them.’ Ovo stated it had carried out all treatments required by the ombudsman.
I took Ovo to court docket…
Nicola Ratnett, from Mid Wales, was converted to Ovo in Could 2022. However the freelance author, 61, says her work has been disrupted for months by ongoing issues along with her billing.
Nicola says she solely used round 1,800 kilowatts per yr with SSE, as she makes use of wooden burners and logs for many of her warmth — however she has been billed for two,500 kilowatts in a single month by Ovo.
In protest at what she says are incorrect fees, Nicola has not paid Ovo for any of her utilization.
She has supplied to pay simply the standing cost, as that is the one factor of her invoice that she is assured is being calculated accurately, however was advised she couldn’t do that. Nicola can be in a dispute with Ovo over funds that she ought to get for producing vitality from photo voltaic panels.
At midnight: Nicola Ratnett says her work has been disrupted for months
Ovo says she should have a wise meter to obtain the funds, however Nicola doesn’t need one, mainly as a result of she lives in a rural space with poor web and telephone sign, so worries that it will not work correctly. This implies she is unable to export her extra energy.
SSE allowed prospects to export vitality if that they had both a wise meter or a non-smart meter that was able to taking half-hourly readings, however Ovo’s rule is that solely a wise meter is suitable.
‘I’ve lived a really lucky life, I’ve by no means been in debt and I’ve by no means owed cash, so this has all been fairly a shock,’ says Nicola.
‘I have not paid Ovo something. I’ve advised it again and again, ‘You ship me one thing that appears like a correct invoice and I’ll pay it’. This should not have an effect on my working life, nevertheless it does.’
She did a topic entry request with the Data Commissioner’s Workplace to search out out what data Ovo held on her. She found that Ovo had added a word on her account which stated: ‘Don’t open complaints relating to meter or utilization’.
Nicola determined to open a case within the small claims court docket within the hope of getting reimbursement for the money and time she had spent making an attempt to resolve the scenario. She is self-employed and says her battles with the agency have led to her falling behind along with her work.
‘It was for the prices, the phone calls, postage, copying and my time. I charged £3 per day for each day that the grievance has been operating,’ she says.
In July this yr, her case reached the highest of the checklist and was heard by the court docket. As a result of Ovo didn’t reply inside the said timeframe, the decide determined that Nicola had gained by default and Ovo was compelled to pay her £2,877.20 together with prices.
Nonetheless, she continues to be locked in a dispute with the agency about her photo voltaic panel funds. Ovo says it has knowledgeable Nicola on a number of events that she wanted a wise meter if she needed to obtain them, and she or he had refused to get one. It stated this was commonplace observe throughout the business and was additionally said on its web site. Nicola has now taken her case to the Vitality Ombudsman.
A spokesman for Ovo says: ‘Our groups have been working to place proper every of the shopper instances which have been raised with us.
‘We’re sincerely sorry to these prospects who have not acquired the assist and repair they need to rightly anticipate.
‘We’re dedicating extra advisers [to this] to make sure our prospects obtain the assist they want.’
Ovo has already paid compensation to some prospects after billing issues. In Could, regulator Ofgem compelled Ovo to appropriate 11,000 prospects’ payments, and pay them a mean of £181 every in compensation, as they had been overcharged between October 2022 and March 2023.
Nonetheless, the instances we acquired counsel that tons of of shoppers have continued to be wrongly billed past that date.
Earlier this yr, Ofgem launched an investigation into Ovo to examine it was complying with its commonplace licence circumstances round ‘treating home prospects pretty, obligations to prospects on the Precedence Companies Register and guaranteeing prospects’ prepayment meters are protected and fairly practicable in all circumstances’.
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