Pamela Welch was terrified when she obtained a £1,200 power 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 Seashore, who helps her along with her payments, says that from the time she obtained that first scary invoice this March to July, Pamela’s money owed to Ovo escalated to greater than £4,000, despite the fact that she used little or no gasoline 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 motive with Ovo on Pamela’s behalf, she was nonetheless despatched worrying debt assortment letters.
Nicola Ratnett (left) and Sarah Robinson are two of the Ovo clients who’ve contacted us about what they imagine are incorrect payments, which have had a big impact on their lives
‘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 this may cease them,’ says Steve.
After we contacted Ovo, it mentioned that Pamela had a dual-rate sensible meter put in in Might 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 mentioned debt assortment exercise had been placed on maintain.
However as Pamela and Steve have taken Ovo to the ombudsman to dispute the fees, it says it is going to wait till that course of was concluded to take additional motion.
Pamela is amongst hundreds of Ovo Energy customers who’ve written to That is Cash and our sister title Cash Mail in current months about billing errors.
In lots of circumstances, clients are receiving payments which might be lots of, and even hundreds, of kilos greater than they imagine 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 resulting from hours spent on the cellphone 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 instructed us his woes had left him considering suicide.
What has gone awry?
The vast majority of readers who’ve contacted us have been among the many 3.5 million former clients of power provider SSE.
They have been transferred from SSE, previously generally known as Southern Electrical, when Ovo purchased that provider’s retail arm in 2020 and catapulted itself from a small provider into one of many huge six UK power companies in a single day.
When clients have been switched from SSE to Ovo, their payments have been usually topic to an ‘adjustment’ — in different phrases, the distinction between what SSE mentioned they owed and what their new provider Ovo believes is due.
These changes change the general stability of the account and happen when Ovo Vitality believes former SSE clients have underpaid or if it disputes their ultimate stability with SSE.
Nevertheless, on copies of Ovo payments we’ve got seen, the rationale for an adjustment isn’t defined. This could trigger misery for patrons, as they don’t seem to be instructed why their invoice has elevated and so have no idea whether or not it’s more likely to occur once more.
In addition 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, obtained a £6,000 stability adjustment from Ovo.
Barbara’s son, Gary, says: ‘She obtained no correspondence about this to warn her of such a dramatic invoice, nor any clarification.’
Frozen out: Some clients have been left with no heating or electrical energy, or have fallen behind with work resulting from hours spent on the cellphone 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 stability on each her outdated and new meter.
Gary says his mom’s gasoline utilization has been ‘regularly 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 he or she goes to mattress early, so all of the lights and TV are switched off,’ he says.
My mom is distraught — she thinks her power goes to be disconnected, as she can not afford the excellent debt of £5,000 that Ovo has instructed she owes
‘She can not climb the steps, so doesn’t use the upstairs degree of her dwelling and, as such, she can not use the bathtub or bathe. She simply has a wash, so is utilizing little or no power.
‘And but, her direct debit is way greater than my very own and I stay with my spouse in a four-bedroom home.
‘My mom is distraught — she thinks her power goes to be disconnected, as she can not afford the excellent debt of £5,000 that Ovo has instructed she owes.
‘I believe that many older individuals 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 obtained 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 mentioned the issue had been mounted and Barbara is now almost £1,800 in credit score.
Chaos: Sarah Robinson (pictured), a paediatric nurse, has been left with no heating, sizzling water, mild or any technique of cooking for days following Ovo Vitality bungles.
I misplaced my provide 3 times
Sarah Robinson, 38, a paediatric nurse, has been left with no heating, sizzling 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 obtained a ultimate invoice on her direct debit account for £952 — however this was then adopted by one other in June for £1,800.
She says her electrical energy provide has been lower off 3 times this 12 months. The primary time was after she tried to modify again to a direct debit tariff when she discovered the pre-payment fees costlier.
‘The member of workers mentioned they’d swap me over remotely, however my electrical energy was then lower off,’ says Sarah. ‘I known as and so they mentioned they weren’t capable of swap me to month-to-month funds, and that I used to be unable to prime up my pay-as-you-go for seven days as a result of tried swap.
‘I requested them what I ought to do, and so they mentioned there was nothing I may do.’
On two different events, she tried to prime up her pay-as-you-go meter however there was a fault with Ovo’s system, leaving her unable to prime up both by way of the app or by cellphone. The second time an engineer wanted to return to her property to reconnect the provision, which she says took 5 days.
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
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 cellphone being transferred from one division to a different, talking to unhelpful and impolite members of the Ovo workforce.
‘I used to be left with no heating, sizzling water, mild or any technique of cooking. I’ve needed to transfer out of my flat on three separate events.
‘I’ve spent lots of of kilos on lodging and changing spoilt fridge and freezer gadgets. No one at Ovo appeared to care. In truth, I even had one girl snicker at me down the cellphone.’
After we obtained in contact with Ovo about Sarah’s case, it reviewed the utilization on her sensible meter and amended her invoice. Her excellent stability fell to £882.71 after a goodwill cost was additionally utilized.
Overcharged: Many Ovo Vitality clients are receiving payments lots of and even hundreds of kilos greater than they imagine they owe
I’ve obtained one other particular person’s debt
Jane Smith, 72, had her account switched from SSE to Ovo earlier this 12 months. However since then, she has obtained payments registered to a stranger with a distinct identify and account quantity.
Jane, whose identify we’ve got modified at her request, claims that Ovo refused to talk to her or change the identify on the account because it claimed she did not have an Ovo account in her personal identify. ‘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 identify, Jane believes the debt on the opposite particular person’s account was transferred over to hers — and he or she was instructed 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 ultimately 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 would not assume she owes, so she argues that this isn’t correct compensation.
Jane thinks her invoice was greater than it ought to have been, however has determined to pay it off so she may swap her provider.
‘I’ve come to the purpose the place I’ll must 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 mentioned 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 Might 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 12 months 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.
In the dead of night: Nicola Ratnett says her work has been disrupted for months
She has provided to pay simply the standing cost, as that is the one aspect of her invoice that she is assured is being calculated appropriately, however was instructed she couldn’t do that. Nicola can also be in a dispute with Ovo over funds that she ought to get for producing power from photo voltaic panels.
Ovo says she will need to 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 cellphone sign, so worries that it will not work correctly. This implies she is unable to export her extra energy.
SSE allowed clients to export power 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 instructed it over and over, ‘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, however it does.’
She did a topic entry request with the Info Commissioner’s Workplace to search out out what data Ovo held on her. She found that Ovo had added a observe on her account which mentioned: ‘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 criticism has been operating,’ she says.
In July this 12 months, 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 choose determined that Nicola had received by default and Ovo was compelled to pay her £2,877.20 together with prices.
Nevertheless, she remains 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 wished to obtain them, and he or she had refused to get one. It mentioned 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 circumstances which have been raised with us.
‘We’re sincerely sorry to these clients who have not obtained the help and repair they need to rightly count on.
‘We’re dedicating extra advisers [to this] to make sure our clients obtain the help they want.’
Ovo has already paid compensation to some clients after billing issues. In Might, regulator Ofgem compelled Ovo to appropriate 11,000 clients’ payments, and pay them a median of £181 every in compensation, as they have been overcharged between October 2022 and March 2023.
Nevertheless, the circumstances we obtained counsel that lots of of shoppers have continued to be wrongly billed past that date.
Earlier this 12 months, Ofgem launched an investigation into Ovo to examine it was complying with its commonplace licence situations round ‘treating home clients pretty, obligations to clients on the Precedence Providers Register and guaranteeing clients’ prepayment meters are protected and fairly practicable in all circumstances’.
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