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Dear CAG,

 

I'm posting to ask your advice about potential to take legal action against npower.

A customer of many years, my billing was recently disrupted by their apparent billing meltdown, during which time i received a letter advising an amount was to be written off to comply with backbilling regulations.

 

I was subsequently made aware that they'd re-commenced billing by an automated message asking me why i hadn't paid my bill. I called to advise it was because i hadn't received a bill and today, twelve months later, it still isn't resolved.

 

When i received my bill it included an amount listed as 'balance on account', but there were no meter readings for this amount, i queried this with npower and this led to them putting my account on hold to allow 'back office' to look at it, it appears they didn't; my account came off hold and the unresolved matter was escalated - repeat numerous times and npower increase the threat levels, eventually they involved PDCS, and threatened to tarnish my credit history and obtain a warrant to enter my home. It was ridiculous, disproportionate and a result of their failing and not mine.

 

During this time i had the attention of a manager who promised to resolve the matter but failed to do so, during one conversation she called up a bill on their system which included figures which differed from my bill. Presumably as a result of her involvement, i received an odd list of dates and figures, there was no explanation and no indication of who'd sent it.

I exhausted npower's formal complaints procedure (the first part of which they used as a sales lead!) without them attempting to answer this simple central question of how they justified the charge.

 

I took the matter to the Ombudsman, as a result of their involvement npower found a further 3 bills from the same date as the one received which add up to the sum in question. The process was slow but eventually one evening, out of the blue i received a call from the investigating officer advising on their findings. Their process doesn't allow for things to be put in writing but rely on an agreement over the phone, keen to put an end to it i agreed to the recommendations of the Ombudsman namely that npower send a letter of apology, the missing bills and credit my account with token 'goodwill' payment.

 

A couple of days later i was incensed to receive a hand delivered letter again threatening to enter my home, this was in breach of an agreement that npower would not conduct any recovery procedure on the account, consequently i contacted the Ombudsman to ask whether i may be allowed grace time to reconsider my decision. I have subsequently challenged both npower and the Ombudsman.

 

I have repeatedly offered to settle the account (less the amount in dispute) and have asked npower to raise such a bill, which they have not. I was surprised to find npower plunging to new lows by crediting the account with the 'goodwill' gesture, whilst debiting it for the services of their debt collection agency!

 

My challenge to both npower and the Ombudsman is that in spite of my repeated requests for a proper bill i did not receive one until the intervention of the Ombudsman, neither did anyone inform me that four bills had been generated on one day. As a result of the Ombudsman's involvement i received these bills in April '15 which covered the amount in question which was for a period ending Febraury '14. It is my contention that this constitutes backbilling.

 

The Ombudsman are now dragging their heels, whilst npower are refusing to consider the idea that they may be backbilling, when one mentions it they refer to their earlier 'meltdown' period and refer to it as if they have done me a favour by being incompetent! They issue Act Now notices and only offer to hold the account for 7 days at a time. It's taken up far too much of my time, i don't beleive i've done anything wrong and i've had enough of it.

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They can back bill 12 months related to when the issue about bills for usage arose.

 

All you want to know is your actual usage for the period not paid for and an accurate bill for this, so you can come to a payment arrangement. At some point this will need to be resolved, as otherwise NPower will force entry to install a prepayment meter.

 

Would suggest a letter to the CEO of NPower if you do not have accurate bills to base payment on, without back billing going back more than 12 months.


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Thanks for your reply, although i'm not sure i fully understand the first sentence of it.

Following many months of requests for an accurate bill it took the involvement of the Ombudsman for npower to provide this information. It is part of their standards of service to provide a correct bill, my contention is that in spite of my requests for them to do so they dallied, when the Ombudsman finally stirred them into action we were fourteen months past the end of the period being billed for.

 

This is from Energy UK's website (energy-uk.org.uk/publication.html?task=file.download&id=4991)

"5.

Back billing

Suppliers have signed up to the back-billing principles. They will assess each back-billing case individually.

5.1

If your supplier is at fault and has not sent you an accurate bill that they should have sent you, they will not ask you to pay any extra for energy you used (and which you did not receive an accurate bill for) more than one year before they issued the bill."

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I think your point is that the 12 months goes back from the point NPower finally issued an accurate bill ? When i think they will go back to when the billing problem occured, which you informed them of. It is only the complaints process which has meant it is 14 months on.


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They appear to hold to the idea that it is irrelevant when i received the bill, that it is the date on the bill which is the determining factor. I question this as i have clearly advised them that i am not in receipt of the bill, i believe that the failing is theirs as they have not then re-issued the bill, this is further underlined by the failure of both the manager and their official complaints process to resolve this seemingly simple matter.

 

The company has a responsibility to issue bills which reference readings either actual or estimated, clearly this did not happen in this case. There is no reason they could not have responded to my requests in a prompt manner so your last comment is invalid.

 

Now, with respect, i didn't come here for a chat, the question i ask concerns how i go about assessing my position in regard to taking legal action.

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Will leave to others to comment, but i cannot personally see what court action would be successful. I think others have been successful based on harassment, because they have had many years of documented hassle dealing with companies.

 

Beyond that i will restrain myself from being rude.


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Will weigh in on this later tonight...

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Thanks Eversir, but before you get too stuck in, the latest news is i've had a response this afternoon from the Ombudsman who are now looking in my favour, they advise that they are in contact with npower about this and will call again tomorrow to confirm.

 

Looks like i'll be settling for the moral victory, i hope you get the payout!

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Fair enough.

 

If it doesn't work out, get an SAR sent to Npower - pronto. I'd be tempted to do it anyway, regardless of the outcome.

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Just had a look at the template and it seems straightforward enough, and given their threats to tarnish my credit history it might be worthwhile, thanks.

Can i ask, did you get an SAR and if so what did you learn from it? (PM me if necessary).

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We did, but they were over 70 days late in providing it. Even then it was incomplete.

 

Even so, it revealed some very interesting things. Do read my thread - I believe you posted on it earlier :)

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Wow, having registered today i see more info than previously as a guest. That SAR generated a lot of info, i wonder if you've finished wading through it all yet? :) Either way i congratulate you on your persistence in all of this, and applaud the steadying hands of BankFodder and citizenB, keeping an eye on your thread has given me the sense of confidence that i have a fall-back option.

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We did, but they were over 70 days late in providing it. Even then it was incomplete.

 

Even so, it revealed some very interesting things. Do read my thread - I believe you posted on it earlier :)

 

Without reading your thread again, was your claim successful for harassment over several years i.e it was not just hassle in getting an accurate bill over a year and a half ?

 

Difficult to gauge likelyhood of people being successful with court claims for harassment. Each case on its own merits, but from the cases i have seen, people have had problems over 2 or more years.

 

I was with NPower going back years ago and I had no problems at all. I have been with 2 different companies since and not had problems. I just wonder why some people have more problems than most. My meter is read at least every 6 months and i also give readings online when i get an estimated bill, which produces an accurate bill instantly.


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PLEASE HELP US TO KEEP THIS SITE RUNNING EVERY POUND DONATED WILL HELP US TO KEEP HELPING OTHERS

 

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I'm away at present. Back next week.

Send SAR.

Read customer services guide.

Start calling Npower several times to discuss and record the different versions.

When the SAR arrives you can start to take action.


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Did Npower honour the Backbilling on this? Have you taken them to court or was ombudsman action successful? What kind of amounts are we discussing?

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