I received some mixed news yesterday from our gas supplier, nPower. The letter said that our account was over £440 in credit, and the monthly payment was reducing by nearly half, to £57. Given the recent media frenzy about rising energy prices, this seems to be a bit of a result and, if someone had said that this was going to happen when I woke up in the morning, I’d have been jolly pleased.
However, energy companies are not generous philanthropists. A year or so ago, we’d moved house. At our previous house, we were paying around about £35/month to the same gas supplier, a figure that had been constant for some time. On moving house, they seem to have used the previous occupants usage to try to estimate what our gas costs might be, and put the monthly charge up to around £150/month. I contested that with them, arguing that our gas costs had been significantly lower, and they agreed to lower it to £120/month, with the rather threatening proviso that if we came short we’d see our monthly fee rise significantly.
An so, with yesterdays letter, we learnt that over the six months we’d used £225 worth of gas and paid for over £650, resulting in the huge credit in the account. They were also predicting a total usage over the coming year of over £900, which even allowing for rises in price and inflation seems enormously high. I argued that with them as well, and they were reluctant to change. They will refund the credit in our account, but this will put up the revised monthly fee from £57 to £75/month, as the new rate allows for us having the credit. I’m guessing our account will continue to be in credit when the next bill arrives next March.
It’s a sickening and frustrating situation. On the one hand, most of us need a steady and consistent supply of gas to our homes, and expect to have to pay for it. On the other, this company is taking far more money from us than we actually need to pay and earning interest on it over long periods, and then calculating our revised rates on badly predicted estimates, factoring in that we would prefer to have them earning interest on our over-payments rather than have the money back for ourselves. If this situation is duplicated over many households, as I expect it is, the energy companies seem to be merrily screwing us over like every other big corporation in the country.
I feel powerless as a result – the fragmented energy supply business gives me no confidence that other companies are going to be any more reliable, personal or understanding, or cheaper for that matter. The process of changing supplier is daunting and the task of contacting one’s supplier is challenging as well. I was able to call nPower’s (so called) customer line in the off-peak time – afternoon between 1pm and 4pm – but still had an estimated 13-21 minute wait to be at the front of the queue (and it was towards the top end of that time). God only knows what the waits are like at peak time.
Anyone else frustrated by their energy supplier?