Wednesday, January 24, 2007


The mysteries of the utility companies’ accounts department never fail to intrigue me.
Step One: they ‘estimate’ how much gas/electricity I’ll use and set my monthly direct debit payments accordingly.

Step Two: I’m never in when they call to read the meter (though I bet they have torches), so they base my quarterly bills on ‘estimated’ readings.
Now call me dense, but am I missing something here? Wouldn’t you expect the estimate they use in step one to be the same as the estimate they use in step two? If they think I’m going to use X units and so set my monthly payments accordingly, wouldn’t it make sense that the ‘estimated meter reading’ would be similarly based on X units?

But no, year on year on year, they insist on setting my direct debits higher than my ‘estimated usage’ (which is never far out from my actual when I read the meter for them) and so every year or so I have to ring them up and say “much as it’s nice for you to be holding £80 of my money in ‘credit’ I’d really rather have it back in my account please”.

Given the price hikes over the last year, it makes this pattern even more irksome.

Since the last time I got the account straight, over the last 18 months (a period containing more ‘winter’ than ‘summer’) they have taken what amounts to £5 a month too much overall. But get this, if they return £75 of the current £80 odd credit to me, they’ll actually want to up my direct debit from £26 a month to £28.

How does that make sense?

You’re habitually charging me around £5 a month too much, I have to keep ringing you up to get the surplus back and your solution is to put my monthly payments up not down.

It’s logic like that that keeps their coffers full and the interest on everyone’s cash lining their pockets not ours. Well f*** that for a game of soldiers.

At this point I will say something positive about the utility company in question. When I argued about the sheer lunacy of the ‘computer’ prediction, the human being on the other end of the phone did at least see my point and we ended up compromising on me getting the credit back without him upping my monthly payments. So the “computer says no” circle of hell was avoided thankfully.

Even so, I still have to resign myself to the knowledge that in a year’s time I will no doubt be once again chasing a refund. Maybe I should just see it as a stealth saving scheme? Crummy interest though.

I’ve been meaning to switch the utility in question to a more ethical provider for some time now. Anyone know if Equipower are any better at this billing stuff?

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