Battle: Maureen Stephenson struggled to get a refund
Customers of Economy Energy are being forced to battle for refunds worth hundreds of pounds.
With Christmas just six days away, some households have been left more than £800 out of pocket after switching to a new supplier months ago.
Money Mail readers have told how the small supplier, which has 305,000 customers, has repeatedly ignored their complaints.
And according to the Coventry-based firm’s own figures, it received 7,073 complaints between April and June — compared to 2,837 in the same period last year.
Retired policeman Derek Boldison, 83, switched his gas and electricity to Octopus Energy in August after Economy Energy tried to increase his electricity payment by £20 a month. When he received his final bill, he realised the firm owed him almost £300.
Three-and-a-half months on, Derek, who lives with wife Pauline in Selby, North Yorkshire, is still waiting for his money back.
He says: ‘I feel so angry that the company is not taking responsibility for refunding its customers. I could use the money to pay some outstanding bills and around Christmas a little extra money always comes in handy.’ After Money Mail stepped in, Derek received a call to say his refund is being processed.
Tony Clarke, 63, has been waiting for £500 since he switched to People’s Energy on July 11. He says he was told there are many more people ahead of him in the queue for a refund.
The driving instructor, from Cambridge, says: ‘I got the impression Economy Energy is a company that uses customer money to fund its business. They ask for two months’ payments in advance and then refuse to give you your money back.’
Joanne Taylor, 38, of Cheshire, has been chasing a refund of £866 since July 30. She became an Economy Energy customer in May 2017 when she bought her house.
according to Economy Energy’s own figures, it received 7,073 complaints between April and June — compared to 2,837 in the same period last year
Due to extensive renovations, Joanne, her husband and two children were not able to live in the property so energy usage was low and she built up credit.
But when Joanne requested a refund, she was told she would only be entitled to some of the money to make sure she stayed in credit over the winter. Angry at having her money withheld, Joanne complained.
She was surprised to be told the only way she could get a full refund was to leave the company. She cancelled her contract on September 5 and switched to Bulb but has yet to get her money.
Clive Parker, 75, has been battling with Economy Energy since October for a refund of £320, after building up credit over the summer. Clive, a retired engineer from Brampton, Cumbria, regularly switches to a cheaper provider when his deals expire.
He moved to SO Energy on October 23 and waited for Economy Energy to issue a refund, but instead the firm took another payment for gas and electricity in November.
Clive and wife Pauline, 72, a retired business owner, have since made repeated attempts to get their money back.
He says: ‘To say we have been given the run-around is an understatement. They admitted they owed the money but could not say when I would receive it.’
Clive threatened to make a formal complaint but was told it would be ‘logged and closed’ because the complaints team already knew of its refund problems. Frustrated, Clive contacted Money Mail and has now been refunded in full.
Last year the Energy Ombudsman received 467 complaints about Economy Energy. This year’s figure has nearly quadrupled to 1,825.
Citizens Advice scored the firm just 2.4 out of five in its most recent customer service league table.
Ofgem says suppliers cannot withhold direct debit surpluses without a valid reason
Former building society manager Maureen Stephenson, 71, had to battle with Economy Energy for 12 weeks to get her refund of £244 after switching to a new supplier in September.
Maureen, from Doncaster, says: ‘It is not about needing the money, it is the principle. I built up that credit over the summer to use in the winter and they would not let me have it.’
Maureen finally received her refund on December 13.
It is the latest scandal to hit a small energy supplier this year.
Last week we revealed how One Select had become the eighth to go bust in just 12 months.
In October we sent energy watchdog Ofgem a dossier of around 120 complaints from readers about Green Star Energy’s customer service.
Ofgem says suppliers cannot withhold direct debit surpluses without a valid reason.
A spokesman says it routinely monitors suppliers’ compliance and will raise issues directly where there is evidence of widespread or serious problems.
Economy Energy has also had a number of clashes with Ofgem this year. In June it faced accusations of colluding with E, another supplier, to avoid targeting each other’s customers.
In October, it missed the deadline for paying its share of renewable energy subsidies shortly after hiking the price of its variable rate Switch Saver by 38 per cemt.
Economy Energy, which was set up in 2012, declined to comment, but a statement on their website said: ‘In response to the recent speculation and circulating misinformation, we would like to provide assurance that we at Economy Energy have no intention of closing our doors.
‘We will pay our outstanding (renewable energy subsidies) obligation in full, business will continue as usual for our customers.’