Switching energy suppliers can save you a fortune – but make sure you’re not being ripped off in the process
Here’s a simple story, and a warning to anyone who has dealings with energy companies – so just about everyone.
Not only do you need to switch supplier to save money, you also need to keep a beady eye on your old supplier to avoid being ripped off.
Here’s how I nearly lost almost £600 – around the equivalent of an average home’s energy supply for six months.
Back in December last year, I ran the numbers and quickly discovered that my deal with Toto, which was coming to an end, was no longer the best around. So, I found a far better gas and electricity package with Avivo and switched.
So far, so simple.
After all the usual emails saying how sorry they were I was leaving and how I could change my mind, blah blah, Toto sent me a final bill and I paid it by direct debit, as I did every month I’d been with them.
It was a fair bit more than the usual monthly bill – £194.46, compared to £129.64. But I assumed, as you do, that the extra was just to even up my account after the final reading (which I supplied).
And that was that. I heard nothing more until this week – almost six months after I switched.
And the only reason I heard from them at all? Taking a look at my bank account one evening, I noticed a few old direct debits no longer in use, so I cancelled them. One was for Toto.
Within 24 hours I was receiving emails and phone calls from Toto, all friendly at first about how ‘these things happen’ and ‘not to worry’, but my there was a problem with my direct debit. Er, yes, my bank account details were now nothing to do with them, and they had no need for a direct debit!
Which all seemed a bit odd. So, I started to make some inquiries.
First, I logged into my Toto account, and was relieved to see no payments had been taken after that January one. Also, my account was showing zero balance.
But I felt there was something fishy going on about all this. There were parts of my account online that I couldn't get access to, and messages popped up saying my details couldn’t be found, while I could access other parts. And why were they asking about a direct debit?
I finally discovered that for almost six months, Toto had been sitting on £593.59 of my money, all the while my account showed a balance of zero.
This money was what I had accumulated in overpayments every month while with them, even though I supplied meter readings online whenever I was asked to.
When I left them, they must have been able to see I was hundreds of pounds in credit, but they still took yet another payment – bigger than the rest!
If I hadn’t followed up on this, that money would almost certainly have stayed in Toto’s pockets for good, and I would have been none the wiser.
Eventually, they confirmed I was owed this money in an email and have promised to repay it – but this could take as long as 28 days! Which means they will have had almost £600 of my money for around seven months. No apologies, no explanation.
(I wonder how quickly Toto’s accounts department starts sending threatening letters and charging interest to customers who owe them money!)
And how many other customers has all this happened to?
More importantly, how many of those customers still don’t have no idea they’re owed money?
I’ve made a formal complaint to Toto and I’m waiting for their response.
There are four points that need answers:
- How come they took money from my bank when I left them and when THEY owed ME hundreds of pounds?
- How can they allow a credit balance of almost £600 to build up when they are being sent accurate meter readings every month?
- How come my online account shows a zero balance when, in fact, I was almost £600 in credit?
- How is it possible for this kind of money to sit in an ex-customer’s account without any attempts made to repay it?
So, at least I know I’ll finally get my money back, AND I’ve learned an important lesson or two.
When leaving a supplier, make sure you get a final statement at the time of leaving.
Before they take a final payment, ask them in writing what your exact balance is. If they can’t tell you, they have no business taking more money.
Energy companies are supposed to transfer any credit to your account with your new supplier. Ask the old supplier, in writing, when this will be done by. If the length of time seems unreasonable, like longer than one month, complain.
I then suggest you make a note to make sure you check either with your new energy supplier or with your bank that the money has actually been paid.
But whatever you do, don’t trust any of these companies to take the same care of your money as you would do!
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