Utility Bills galore
Utility Bills galore

One fact about London is – London is expensive. Actually, it is really damn expensive. On top of that, you have strict rules in regards to your utility bills, measures if you do not pay them and you kind of live in constant panic mode of making money.

However, has it ever happened to you, that you get your utility bill and think – this is not right? If that scenario rings a bell, read on.

The worst is, when you move flats. You call every single supplier to terminate the contract, tell them you are moving and ask for your final bill. You feel like you have settled everything, you move to your new place and some months later, new bills for your old place start coming through. All in red caps, demanding their ‘rightfully’ owed sums.

I must say this part really frustrates me, and even if it is £20 I will query it because I hate those practices in London, of companies extorting their customers, just because they can. So, if you ever find yourself in this situation and you are sure you are correct.

Follow these steps:

1. Save all letters sent to you
2. Call the supplier asking you for money – you will likely be put through to the call centre, then they will transfer you to the relevant department or a manager.
3. When you go through – request to speak to someone who has a named email address. All further communication following this 1 phone call needs to be in writing (paper trail)
4. Listen to everything the utility company has to say – take a note of it all while on the call
5. Take note of the time, date and duration of the call, as well as the person’s name and ID number, get a reference number for the call as well, if you can
6. Request that all further communication is done via email – no phone calls
7. Send a follow up email with your discussion, your side of the story and your desired outcome

At this stage it usually takes weeks or so, until someone comes back to you, to let you know that you still owe them money. It is pretty impressive that out of the 3 times this happened to me, it has never been resolved by the company itself.

At this stage – Do not give up. That is what they want you to do, they want you to just get tiered of the process, pay the money and they will leave you alone. Do not do this – your hard earned money should not be a gift to paper pushing, empty headed bureaucrats.

8. In an email just explain that you still disagree with the outcome and that you want to either be put through a supervisor or you will contact the Ombudsman* with the case
9. The utility company will usually say they do not care that you will contact the Ombudsman, however this is a bit of a trick from their side to downplay the situation. If you log a case with the Ombudsman, legally, they cannot peruse the debt while the Ombudsman is looking into it. Your case goes ‘on hold’. If you receive any more letters, this can be considered harassment
10. Write a complaint to the Ombudsman for the relevant service – include all your emails, scanned copies of your letters and any other material that can be helpful for the Ombudsman to see that you are being charged unfairly

At this stage the Ombudsman will run their own investigation and come back to you with a decision within about 8 weeks. They might contact you for more information, so make sure your contact details are correct. The Ombudsman’s decision cannot be appealed by the supplier but it can be questioned (if certain factors are present) by you, the customer.

The process is long and time consuming, as well as annoying. However, it is totally worth it when you win.

*The Ombudsman is a free, impartial, regulatory service. They are unlikely to award  anything more than £50 as compensation if they rule in the consumer’s favour. Their role is to make sure that the consumer is not being exploited by the big companies, not to financially compensate them.

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