My energy bill came through the other day after being delayed.
They hadn’t billed me for four months even though I’m on a direct debit. It all looked correct to me, but I queried it anyway with the company. As it happened, they told me that they hadn’t applied my discount, which meant that they were charging me more than they should have done. And yet, there they were still taking my direct debit.
After a long conversation with them, they reduced it back to what it should have been, but I also put in a complaint for incorrect direct debit billing anyway.
It was all done via live chat, and I saved the entire conversation, so I now have evidence, should I decide to take it any further. I’m not planning to do so at the moment, but it’s part of best practice. It’s also very important when you’re making these queries and talking to suppliers about your bill that you remain calm and aren’t rude. I hate using a live chat, but when she told me I had a discount that hadn’t been applied, it was brilliant.
I don’t know how big the discount is yet – they didn’t have that information on my screen – but it would have been easy for me to just accept the bill and pay it. How many people would just say ‘that looks about right’ and not query it?
I have a smart meter installed at my store, but best practice means you need to be consistently looking at what your reading is and comparing it with your bill. I believe my readings are correct, so I trust them more than the bill. I receive a bill, I check it and then I go from there.
I might not have checked the bill because it looked alright, but now I always check. It’s just standard practice for me now.
And I will always save the live chat and make sure to lodge a complaint if a direct debit was incorrectly taken. If I have to sit on a call for 20 minutes to get to the bottom of it, I want to get something that will benefit me.
And it’s not just energy bills, either. I’m increasingly questioning other bills as well. Booker have changed my deliveries so they come from a different depot on a different day, but I’m getting the bill on the same day as before, so I’m questioning that as well.
Christine Hope, Hopes of Longtown, Hereford
Read more of our expert opinion on the independent retail sector