Phone and energy billing mistakes
It has been in the news a lot recently about Vodafone and their billing mistakes. It moved to a new billing platform and since then there have been masses of reports of serious blunders, such as direct debits incorrectly set up, people being put on the wrong tariff and credit agencies wrongly being told that customers have missed payments.
So what if you are one of these customers or indeed if you receive bills of any sort what should you do?
Check your phone or energy bills
Always check your bills. Check that it is what you think it should be. Then check your bank if you pay by direct debit because there’s always a chance that the company has messed that up! Go back through your statements for months too if you haven’t been checking them.
For energy, look at your bill and how it is broken down. Take the price of electricity or gas per unit (KW/h) divided by 100 and multiply that by the consumption of the energy used. Add the cost of the standing charge, as the number of days multiplied by the daily charge and then add the VAT, which for energy is 5%.
If you have a day and night rate, perform the same check for the night rate. If you have both electricity and gas then repeat the check for your gas bill too.”
If your supplier has used estimated readings for a long time, it could be that your bill could be significantly wrong so you should take readings and submit them to your supplier.
Don’t pay the estimated bill. Instead, send correct readings to your supplier who will provide an accurate bill. It could work in your favour, as you may have paid too much and be in credit. But do remember it could also go the other way!
What to do if you find a problem with your phone or energy bill
Act as soon as you find out. You can ring but you won’t have a record or evidence of what they have said they will do. Recording the call is not a great option because unless they give their permission for you to do this you won’t be able to use it in court should you need to do this. Recording calls and the law. You can use online chat if available. Don’t trust that this will be emailed to you even if they say it will be! Copy and paste the transcript into a document. If you have to ring do so through their free number and follow tips for ringing.
Follow the tips for effective complaining.
Don’t cancel any direct debits. This will confuse the issue and may affect your credit rating.
Taking it further
If you get nowhere with customer services, find the CEO contact details from ceoemail.com and write to him or her. Vodafone CEO contact details. You are highly unlikely to get a response directly from him or her but it will be an escalation as the CEO will have a senior team to deal with complaints. Make sure you add all the dates and evidence of what was agreed prior to writing to him/her.
If this still gets you nowhere then go to the Ombudsman. There is CISAS and the Communication Ombudsman. Your ‘phone provider will be a member of only one of these schemes and you will need to check to see which one. You must ask for a letter of deadlock or wait until 8 weeks has passed since your inital complaint.
Same advice with energy bills. Go to the Energy Ombudsman after following the advice above.
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to services that are carried out with reasonable skill and care and therefore if the company messes up your bills this is not reasonable skill and care. The company must put you back into the position you were in before the mistakes arose. So for example, if you incurred additional expense such as having to ring the company repeatedly then you should add this to your claim. (Generally speaking, unless excessive, you aren’t entitled to redress for time taken on the matter). If your credit rating has been affected the company must also correct this.
If mistakes are made by the company then you can and should argue that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 the company is in breach of contract so therefore if you want you can terminate early without paying the penalty.
There are further rights you have under Ofgem and Ofcom rules.
Ofcom is the regulatory body for phone providers. It cannot investigate individual complaints. However, you can inform them of problems and if a significant number of people do this regarding the issue then it will investigate and take action. Ofgem does the same for energy companies.
Further help with telecom issues
All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers gives you lots of posts with help on issues
Further help with energy issues
Links to help with advice, templates and information to complain about and save energy. How to save money on and complain about, energy
Help with complaining effectively
101 Habits of an Effective Complainer will help you develop skills to become better at complaining