Bill Esterson MP warns pensioners to check household energy bill

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson with Jeanette and Mike Smith


A retired Formby couple is asking Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson to warn other pensioners to carefully check their household fuel bills after Npower mysteriously said they owed more than £2,000 and increased their monthly bills by 1,000% - even though they had only been with the company for a few months.

Earlier this year, Npower issued Mike and Jeanette Smith a bill for £2,114. As a result, the company pushed up the couple's gas bills from £29 a month to £345 to compensate - more than a 1,000% increase.

But Mike and Jeanette had only switched from their previous energy supplier three months earlier.

Although the couple immediately flagged up the error with Npower, they were told that while there was clearly an error, it would take the company up to three months to investigate. Npower admitted that there was likely to be an error in the bill, but despite that, Mike and Jeanette were told they would have had to pay the increased bill charge while the investigation takes place.

Jeanette said there was no way that she could have run up a gas bill for more than £2,000 in that short time.

Jeanette told Bill: "We switched to Npower in December and we had nothing but trouble from the start. They have mistakenly cut our gas off twice and failed to come out to read the meter on three occasions, despite making appointments, leaving us waiting in all day.

"But the big issue is with the bill we were issued for March. It was then that we were told we had run up a bill of £2,114. We live in a house, not a castle. There is no way that we could have run up such a high bill in just a few months.

"Npower told us there appeared to be a mistake, but it would take them months to investigate. While they were carrying out the investigation, we had to pay the increased monthly bill to pay back the outstanding £2,114.

"Now while I have no doubt that they will spot that they have made the mistake, our monthly bills shot up from £29 a month to £345 a month. We complained twice about that, and only then did they agree to lower it to £146. But that's still a huge increase. It is outrageous.

"If Mike and I were still at work, you'd think, well pay the increased bills for now and we'll get a rebate when they realise their mistake. But we're retired and we rely on getting by on our pensions.

"There are other people who aren't as fortunate as we are. How can pensioners be expected to pay so much? How many more people paying for their energy company's mistake and not realising it, but thinking that the increase is just a sign of the times?"

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson with Jeanette and Mike SmithMike said urgent action was needed to tackle the energy bill rip off.

Mike said: "Energy bills are rocketing, we all know that. The best advice from the government is to switch, but we did that and we've had endless amounts of trouble. And to say simply switch just isn't good enough. They're all putting the prices up.

"But there's also a problem of how these companies hide information about what they are charging us in the technobabble smallprint on their bills. No one I know can decipher their energy bills. Again, it is another case of these companies taking advantage of their customers, particularly older customers who may just pay the bill without querying it.

"Urgent action is needed to sort them out once and for all."

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has contacted Npower to ask what the delay is in dealing with Jeanette and Mike's case.

Bill said: "Npower has been very quick to up Jeanette and Mike's monthly bills, but it is being particularly slow in carrying out their investigation.

"It is perfectly clear that it is virtually impossible for them to have used enough gas within the space of three months to incur a bill of £2,114. I know energy from the Big Six is expensive, but that is just ridiculous.

"As Jeanette and Mike both say, they are perfectly able to cope with the stresses of having to deal with something like this, but I really fear for older more vulnerable people who face a situation like this. A situation where their monthly bills have been multiplied because of a mistake from their energy company.

"There needs to be better customer service and a faster response to blatant mistakes like this. As it stands, Mike and Jeanette are paying for Npower's mistake - and they are paying a lot of money.

"The energy companies need tackling. They need tackling urgently.

"David Cameron and this Tory-Lib Dem Government isn't doing enough. The best advice they can give for people struggling to pay their household energy bills is to put on an extra jumper. That's insulting in the extreme.

"That's why I back Ed Miliband's  pledge to freeze energy bills if Labour gets in in the next election and why my party is vowing to tackle the energy companies once and for all.

"I have directly contacted the Npower chief executive to demand urgent action for Jeanette and Mike. It is madness what this company is putting them through."

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson with Jeanette and Mike Smith