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I have read most of the recent exchanges relating to BES Utilities but they don't quite cover the situation I find myself in'.

1) I found out from the national database that BES used to supply a hairdressing business which leased the premises on the first floor of a building we own.


2) That business went into receivership in 2017 and BES cut them off soon after that. I do not know exact dates as I was nothing to do with the process.


3) The premises has remained empty since then and no electricity (obviously) consumed. So I asked BES to downgrade the meter to residential so I could apply for a supply.


4) I began the process of converting the premises to a residential flat earlier in 2020 and applied to the Valuations Office agency for the premises to be removed from business rating as it was (and is) unable to be used for business purposes. This was granted on 6th October but with effect from 25 July 2019.  I have sent a copy of the notification of this through to BES metering and customer services both of whom said that was what needed to be done. I also supplied a Change of Tenancy form showing I am the landlord.


5) My electrician needs to test and certify the electrical installations before the flat can be signed off by the council for occupation and this cannot be done without a live supply. I cannot get a residential supply because BES will not release the meter without a Council Tax Bill which I can't get until the electrical system is tested and building control sign it off - Catch 22.


6) As I say BES has said that in order to make the change on the national database from commercial to residential they need a copy of a Council Tax Bill - this is impossible because until it is signed off by the council it cannot be registered for council tax because no-one is allowed to live there.


7) A number of the people to whom I have spoken (I've spoken to 10 different people) in customer services etc have agreed it is a ridiculous situation and promised to escalate to management. This has not happened.


The only thing which has happened is that someone has opened an account in my name with BES and generated a bill for £537.08 consisting of 341 days of standing charges of £1.50 a day and no consumption. It does incidentally show 2 “Actual” readings on 8th January and 8th June 2020 which is quite impossible as I have the only key for the door(s) to the premises and no access has been granted.

 

They no longer read e-mails despite referring customer service queries to an e-mail address using a webchat service instead. 

 

A typical conversation:-

Them - we can only downgrade the meter when we receive a council tax bill

Me - I can't get a copy of one until there is someone living there and that can't happen until the Electrical Installation is signed off and the Council signs it off for habitation. I can't test it until I have a supply and you won't release the meter.

Them - We need a Council Tax Bill

Me - I can't supply one until I have a supply - is there a compromise situation?

Them - We need a Council Tax Bill

 

That goes on until they cut me off.

 

They are now applying late payment charges at £50 a pop.

 

I can see no logical way out because they are saying I need to sign up for a contract with their sales team, to get re-connected and then apply to downgrade to Residential. That would be insane. In a web chat they did say I am on a "Deemed contract" and can cancel at any time as long as I pay the bill. I do not accept they are within their rights to charge their £1.50 per day standing charges when I have not been given the opportunity to see their charging structure or indeed have sight of the contract they say I have.

 

I may be able to redirect a different supply in the building to bypass their meter (legally I emphasise) but that still leaves me with the likelihood of a credit black mark unless I can take action to set aside the contract/invoice.

 

Can anyone advise a course of action please?

 

Thanks
 

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It's a very strange story – I'm trying to get my head round it – and no doubt you are as well and you are on the front line!

If somebody has opened an account in your name then that immediately puts you in a position where you become a data subject and you become entitled to a statutory data disclosure. Send them an SAR. Do it today.
I think it will be important to start trying to put together some information and find out what is going on.

As I understand it, BES supply commercial contracts for energy supply. Is the account which has been open for you a commercial contract? Or a personal/residential contract?

Have they been sending you paperwork for this?

I find these deemed contracts quite insidious. I'm dying to get someone to challenge one. The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 – section 15, provides that where a price for services has not been agreed then a reasonable price will be implied.
A deemed contract is a contract which is imposed upon a person – unilaterally – without agreement – and on the supplier's own terms. It is an industry practice and I and not at all convinced that it has any basis in law. If a reasonable price is to be implied then it seems to me that that reasonable price should be determined by reference to other factors including the standard price of electricity if it was on a contract and also the price which was paid by the previous customers.

The practice at the moment is that people might have an advantageous residential fixed term contract. Then those people move out and new residents moving. In the period that they are resident and before they have actually arranged a supply contract, they are put on to a "deemed" contract and which is charged out at the supplier's top rate. I don't see any way in which this can be taken to be an implied reasonable rate.

 

Is there any guidance for this kind of situation on the website of the energy regulator? Even if it is veiled – such as fair treatment et cetera?

 

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By the way, you shouldn't worry too much about the late payment charges. There are clearly excessive and even if they were applicable, they would have to reflect administrative losses caused by any breach of contract on your part and I can scarcely imagine that BES utilities are spending £50 a month simply dealing with some breach of contract.

They have a crappy reputation and when you get things sorted out, you've had a good lesson to steer clear of them – and so should anybody else.

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Hi BF,

Appreciate the prompt reply.

I will send an SAR - is there guidance on how anywhere?

They have sent no paperwork of any kind at the moment though they may have sent it to the premises (it's empty so I'll need to go round there). As you say they only supply commercial energy and the terminology they use in texts and credit control e-mails refers only to business name so I'm assuming yes its commercial. What's going on is that in common with literally hundreds of other complainants (see Trustpilot) I am being fleeced by the application of unfair/unreasonable internal rules masquerading as process (them being seen to be compliant with the regulators rules of operation but applying no degree of latitude to their application)

I have checked Ofgem etc and there is no specific guidance I can ascertain though there are references to fair and reasonable. I am "in the queue" for Ombudsman services but have to wait 8 weeks (another 4 from the start of this) or until I get a Deadlock Letter saying they can't go any further - I sort of have this in the webchat exchange about the Council Tax bill Catch 22 situation so I might try that. Any advice?

I saw mentioned that there may be help available to take legal action - do you have any knowledge of the grounds/process to do this?

The thing I'm most anxious about, and I'm sure this is what BES rely on to get people to pay their ludicrous charges, is the potential credit rating black mark - I read somewhere that they were not often granted CCJs but have no way of checking this. Is there a process for one to be notified of actions taken so one can provide evidence that there is a genuine dispute? Not having ever had a black mark means its not an area I'm knowledgeable about as you can imagine. Cheers

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Follow the link SAR <<<<

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