I have lost count of the number of times that I have complained to First Utility now about their service to the customer.
The main issue began around 6-9 months ago when I put the property being supplied with gas and electricity up for sale, and consequently moved out. My electricity was read off a smart meter, which they were able to digitally download, and proved no problem whatsoever. My gas on the other hand was run off a meter reading that I supplied, and was then estimated each month.
After receiving a few bills which were quite high for what I was expecting (i.e. no gas use) I phoned the customer helpline to try and resolve the issue. I was perfectly happy to do this at the time, as I knew that the system would not change its estimates unless I informed First Utility, so that was what my intention was.
After speaking with a customer service representative I was informed that there was no way to change the estimated readings on the system, and that I would have to register an actual read at the end of the month in order to alert the system to any change that was not aware of. I therefore took readings at the end of the month, and input them online.
What followed was a series of further monthly bills that had no consideration whatsoever of the reads that were being input, and was still grossly overestimating my gas usage, even though I had informed First Utility of the change. After phoning up the customer service helpline once more, I was told that meter readings would have to be given more regularly for the system to update itself, as it continues to use a daily estimated usage after the read.
There are two main issue with this solution. Firstly you cannot submit a meter read within 5-7 (at best) working days of submitting a previous read, and secondly, you are not able to submit the same read (or a read within a single unit) of your previous read. This second point was confirmed to me by the customer service representative, who also believed the automated system to be extremely limiting with this.
This meant that I had to submit a read that was INCORRECT, as my gas meter read was not moving, and yet there I was having to input reads that would deliberately force my bills to be higher than they should be. This was all on the recommendation of a customer service representative, and all because I was not using any gas (even though I was still paying a standing charge for every month I was not in the property). This standing charge has consequently come back to haunt me, but I will get to that in due course.
This obviously was unacceptable from my perspective, and the next customer service representative agreed, consequently freezing any further bills from my account until the issue was resolved. This was a solution I was perfectly happy with, as I was not happy constantly paying large amounts of money for gas that I was not using, even though I had been going to every effort to resolve the issue.
Unfortunately, another issue then arose. I received no fewer than 4 notices via post, informing me that my bill amount was overdue, and that I was required to pay it immediately. Not only did I receive these letters, but also 2 text messages stating that my bills were overdue, as well as a direct call from a Billing representative who was quite clearly not informed of my personal situation with First Utility, and was trying to get me to pay over the phone (he was consequently very apologetic after the situation was explained to him).
It is one thing to have to go to all the effort to stop being wrongly charged, it is quite another to be bereted by correspondence demanding payment when you believe all to be sorted and well, and have done your utmost to resolve it yourself.
The house was sold and completed just over a month ago and I only received my final bill 5 days ago, in the usual e-mail format. Before receiving this bill I also received a further call from a billing representative two weeks ago, querying why I had not paid my outstanding bills (the ones which I had been continually assured had been stopped until someone from billing could resolve the issue). This was the ultimate ridiculous scenario, as I had phoned customer service over two weeks before this representitive had called asking when my final bill would arrive. I was informed that it would be on my usual billing day (a month from the point of calling). Wanting to be rid of all the trouble of dealing with First Utility any longer, I asked I they could tell me how much would be owed/charged and if I could pay it then and there. I was told that even they did not have access to the bill until it was automatically generated in September. So essentially, I was being called by someone, asking for a bill to be paid, that I had already tried to pay weeks before, but couldn't pay because of the same system that had clearly told him to call me and get me to pay. Pure stupidity. I submitted another complaint with the suitably apologetic representative who assured me that someone 'higher up' would call or write to clear everything up.
When the final bill did finally come it was one of the biggest shocks of all, as in the period from the bills being stopped (April) until the final bill (beginning of Aug) my bill had somehow managed to come to over £130. I had used around 90-100kWh of electricity in this time (around £13 cost for the units) and 6 units of gas (£2.36 by my conversion calculation for the units). The rest of this bill (over £110) was in standing charges. This was bad enough without a previous bill sent in March which had taken another £72 before I could get the customer service people to stop the payments.
I am not only completely disgusted with the amount being charged, but 5 days later (today) the money has gone straight out of my account, with no phone call, e-mail, or letter of apology still in site after much reassurance from the customer service team that someone 'higher up' would be informed and be getting back to me shortly.
The only good point about this whole experience (grasping at straws here) was the customer service representatives were always polite, courteous and extremely apologetic about the problems.
Had the bill been in credit, I might have been able to forgive and forget, even after the 10's of phone call made, and the hours of talking to customer service to try and resolve the issues. But after receiving this bill and having the payment taken without even a confirmation of the direct debit block being removed, enough is definitely enough.
I will definitely be calling Ofgen first thing Monday morning to explain the problems that I have faced, in the genuine hope that others don't have to suffer the horrible automation that is First Utility.
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