Energy company error leaves shock £2,758 bill
Npower customer, 73-year-old Maureen Burn, was left shocked when she received a £2,758 bill out of the blue. The company had stopped taking direct debits from her account, then one human error later she was served with this huge and terrifying bill.
So what went wrong, and is this the worst bill blunder of recent times?
Burn, from Northampton, was committed to taking regular meter readings and paying £75 a month by direct debit. However, a report in the Daily Mail reveals that the company wrote to her in August saying it wouldn't be taking direct debits for eight months, and stopped taking the money. In January the company contacted her again and said a meter reading showed she owed £2,758.
She rang them, but was told there was a computer error and that she would have to call back. She said she rang back and received terrible service, until eventually she was told she owed £658. Fortunately she had been putting aside her monthly direct debit amounts just in case, which covered most of this.
Npower told the newspaper: "Our engineer submitted an incorrect reading, but we identified this and sent the letter to Mrs Burn asking her to check it. The direct debit was set up but unfortunately there was a system error that stopped any money being taken."
Not aloneShe has since switched, and the company agreed to halve her final bill as a goodwill gesture.
It must have been a horrible shock for someone who kept such a tight control on her bills and her spending, but it shouldn't come as a shock that mistakes are made.
There are a variety of stages in the process where things can go awry. There can be problems with your appliances, the meter can malfunction, it can be read wrongly, there can be calculation errors by the systems, and where something is entered manually there can be mistakes introduced.
And you can be sure that if there's the possibility for a mistake to creep in at any one of five places in the process, it will happen to almost everyone at some stage.
HorrifyingThe horrifying times come when the utility companies get things outrageously wrong. We reported a month ago of the man who received a water bill for £33,000, after a leak at his property. We also covered the tale of the man charged £19,000 after a technical glitch meant his phone started downloading huge amounts of data unprompted.
And as technology gets more sophisticated, and more and more of us are bamboozled by small print, it can lead to mistakes such as the £7,000 mobile bill for accidental downloading, or the £500 TV bill for accidental porn downloads.
It's a reminder that we all need to be on top of what we are being charged, and what we are using. It won't stop the risk that one day we open a bill for 12 quadrillion euros (as a woman from France did), but it will mean that where a utility company makes a mistake, we can pull them up on it immediately, before the unexpected bill starts keeping us up at night.