Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Energy prices: Anglesey sisters could have to leave home

The eldest of seven sisters says she has been forced to increase her weekly bills by more than £33

Energy prices: Anglesey sisters could have to leave home

A 73-year-old woman and her eight siblings could be facing eviction as the eldest of the seven sisters has been forced to increase her bills by more than £33.

Nicola Coates, who pays about £140 a month for her electricity, gas and water, has complained to her energy suppliers about several “deadlines” she is facing that she claims have nothing to do with her financial situation.

She believes suppliers are demanding she pay up because a recently installed loop run by an independent energy supplier left her bill void.

She claims that British Gas sent her a letter three weeks ago demanding that she pay by 19 March for what she assumed was a bill but discovered in a letter a week later that it could be a £323 quote for gas supplied by another company that she now owes.

“I could be faced with having to leave my home. I can’t afford to lose more money,” Coates said.

The youngest of the sisters is seven years old, while the oldest is 102.

According to the Energy UK website, a helpline can be contacted to discuss energy charges. But, for Coates, the hotline is not available and there is no dedicated call centre to advise on the difficulties her energy supplier is facing.

With 10 months left until she can renew her electricity supplies, Coates says she does not think British Gas is responsible for the predicament she finds herself in, and has contacted the Office of Fair Trading for guidance.

She said British Gas’s rival suppliers had taken less of a problem with making contact to explain and so allow Coates to take up the lines that are not operating in an automated call.

A British Gas spokesman said: “In some instances the claim that the fuel supplier is unable to write to a customer in a timely manner or cancel a backlog has been the result of a technical fault or other situation not within our control. In this case, we arranged to reinstate the service.

“If a bill has not yet been passed by a supplier, it is usually due to inaccuracies in calculation – for example, errors in how the boiler, ventilation and water meters were calibrated, as well as the customer having reported heating limits via the online meter interface which in turn can influence the bill calculations.

“This means that, where the customer in question has reported a heat limit, a tariff may not be available to cover any additional cost.

“Where we can inform a customer of an additional fee for an outage, or credit for normal credit/prompt payments, we are happy to do so.”

Tracey Walshe, energy expert at uSwitch.com, said she sympathised with any customers who find themselves in a similar position to Coates.

She said suppliers would need to get to the bottom of why she had been billed inaccurately.

“Suppliers should take the time to locate the original invoice. If they can’t, it may be a case of rolling back bills.”

She recommended that for those whose bills have not passed for some time, the simplest solution would be to spell out whether a new deal is available.

“Or customers who are looking for better deals, where tariffs are more flexible, can use comparison tools.”

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