One woman has revealed her frustrating struggle with now defunct energy company, Spark, after a simple mix-up with meter readings resulted in her being in debt.
This is Money reader, Gill, was told her annual electricity bill was estimated to be an eye-watering £1,800 for a one-bedroom flat.
This compares to an average electricity cost of a four-bedroom house being around £590 a year, according to UK Power.
Despite trying to resolve the clear mistake, a debt collection agency begun chasing her for funds – and she has been left so perturbed by the situation, she has decided to move home.
One woman’s energy bills reached £1,800 a year after giving wrong meter readings (picture posed by model)
The problem began after Gill moved into a small rental flat in London. She says she was told by the letting agent that the meter outside her front door was the one she would need to give readings from, to her energy supplier.
However, unbeknownst to Gill, this meter gave the readings for the communal electrics, such as the electric gates, rather than her own, individual meter.
As her letting agent was late in providing a copy of her inventory, she wasn’t able to double check the serial number against the meter to make sure it was the correct one.
After setting up her account with Spark and a direct debit for £35.37 per month, for the next couple of months she unwittingly gave Spark the communal meter readings, rather than her own.
A couple of months went by with Gill continuing to submit the faulty readings before she was contacted by Spark who informed her, to her horror, that her calculated yearly bill was set at a massive £1,800.
Knowing this couldn’t be right – Gill estimates she only uses between £18-20 worth of electricity a month – she contacted Spark to try and figure out what the problem could be.
After a number of what Gill describes as long and expensive calls to the firm, they figured out what the issue was and Gill stopped submitting faulty meter readings to them.
Gill found the correct meter in December 2018 and submitted readings – but was still being charged high amounts. She had been charged incorrectly from June until December 2018.
Matters were made worse when Spark announced it had ceased trading in November 2018 and Ovo Energy had taken on its customers.
Immediately, her account was seen as in the red and was put in the hands of a debt collection agency.
Gill didn’t realise she was paying the communal bill for her block, including for electric gates
Up until February, the issue had still not been fully resolved despite Gill being given a new account with the correct serial number and meter readings.
In fact, her new account showed she was in credit – but the debt collection agency said Gill still owed them money.
One of the main concerns Gill faced – aside from the debt agency chasing her – was the impact this would have on her credit rating.
After This is Money got in contact with Spark – which does still have a customer services team – it agreed to refund Gill the full amount she was owed as well as guarantee that her credit rating wouldn’t be affected.
A spokesperson for Spark said: ‘We’d like to apologise to Gill for the delay in getting the issues with her account resolved.
‘Our team spoke to the customer today to advise her Spark account has a credit balance of £99.46 which will be fully refunded within five days.
‘We’ve also assured Gill her credit score will not be affected and all debt collection action has been terminated.
‘We’re sorry for the inconvenience caused but pleased to find a satisfactory resolution.’
Spark Energy ceased trading last year amd customers were put onto Ovo Energy instead
Since having problems with Spark, Gill felt the need to move somewhere in which bills are included in rental costs in order to avoid having to deal with similar issues again.
Gill says: ‘This experience has caused me a substantial amount of stress and reduced me to tears.
‘I am now moving to a much smaller studio flat where all bills are inclusive.
‘While I’m hugely relieved beyond belief that this saga is finally being resolved and my credit will be refunded, I wonder whether as a mark of good will, some compensation might be appropriate due to the amount of aggravation, stress and distress I have experienced.
‘This has dogged me since I started living in the property in June and is one of the reasons I’m moving.
‘I’ve been reduced to tears more than once and I’m now moving to a property where all bills are included in the rent.’
Customers are switched automatically if their supplier goes bust, but should not encounter any issues as a result.
However, in this situation, Ovo taking over from Spark meant that Gill’s problems escalated.
A spokesperson for the Energy Helpline said: ‘Fortunately, these cases tend to be rare, but issues do happen from time to time.
‘In the case of an issue like this, it is first advised that you attempt to contact the supplier directly.
‘You may also want to keep a log or a record of your correspondence, and you may want to send letters with the requirement of being signed for.
‘Hopefully, a correspondence will sort things out.
‘However, when a supplier is not responsive, or is not offering a suitable response to you, you can reach out to the Energy Ombudsman.
‘It is free & independent, and suppliers must comply with their decisions (but they are not binding to consumers).
Consumers concerned about any problems with their energy bills can also contact Citizen’s Advice for free help.
A spokesperson for Energy UK added: ‘It is worth noting that this isn’t a “normal” switch in so much as it resulted from Spark going out of business and all their customers being transferred to Ovo under Ofgem’s supplier of last resort process.
‘Where a customer is actively making the switch themselves, we’d suggest that they look for suppliers who have signed up to the energy switch guarantee, which is a series of commitments by signatories to make the switching process simple, speedy and safe.’