Data analyst Daniel Pontin got quite a shock when he opened his latest gas bill. Npower wanted to charge him £31,000 for a year's worth of gas in a one-bedroom house. He said he had no luck when he tried to contact the company to challenge the bill, and that he had been warned in writing that if he didn't pay up, his credit rating would be affected.
Pontin, a 26-year-old with a maths degree and an MA in statistics, told the Daily Mirror that his meter was broken when he moved into his home in Reading. He was charged £35 a month for six months, but stopped paying at that point, because he was no longer receiving bills. The enormous estimated bill then came out of the blue, and came as a particular shock because he only stayed at the one-bedroom house during the working week - so did most of his relaxing and hanging out at his parents' house at the weekend.
The newspaper contacted Npower who said Pontin should ignore the bill while they considered the complex situation and came up with a new bill.
It's an impressively inaccurate bill. But is it the worst of all time?
And mistakes can be even bigger. There was the £61,000 bill received last summer by a family in North Benfleet. They had some particularly unusual circumstances which meant the bill was actually correct - and had to be paid in full. They run a poultry farm, and when the owner called the electricity company he accidentally gave them the meter number for the pre-payment meter for a single warehouse - which is rented out. The rest of the home and business paid nothing for their electricity for three years, and seven years on they owed £61,000.
Of course, it's going to take quite something to top the French woman who received a final bill from her phone company of £10 trillion in October 2012. When she initially phoned to complain, she was told that the bill was accurate and had to be paid. It was only after further discussion that it turned out that instead of owing €11,721,000,000,000,000 she had to pay €117.21.
It may not be the biggest shock ever dealt by a bill, however, because there's Ron Hayward (74) and his wife Ann (71) from Reddish near Manchester, who have faced a shocking bill not once, but twice. Both times Virgin Media has billed them for hundreds of pounds worth of pornography streamed to their home. Both times they insisted that they hadn't watched any adult films at all - but while the company waived the bill the first time, they were unwilling to be so understanding the second time around.
And one definite contender for the most surprised anyone has ever been by a gas provider was in September last year when British Gas broke into Stephanie MacDonald-Walker's flat in Stoneygate over an unpaid gas bill. They broke in to fit a pre-pay meter. However, what they had overlooked was the fact that there wasn't actually a gas supply of any kind at the property.
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