Six of one, and half a dozen of the other this morning with Scottish Power.
We have an online deal, so every so often we have to update meter readings ourselves. The email came last week, about seven days before our direct debit payment for this month is received by the company. I finally got round to inputting the data today.
As I did, I was informed that as our energy account was around 130 quid in the red (that cyclical bit which spreading the cost over a year is designed to iron out for everyone concerned), our payments would go up from a recently reduced £80 to a much higher £102 to compensate!
OK. Well. I didn’t, at the time, realise that the red-numbers bit would be reduced to around £40 (after the hardest period of the winter, too) – either tomorrow or the day after when the regular payment always went through.
Thinking about it now, however, makes me wonder why they send an email just before your next payment. If they sent it just afterwards, maybe they wouldn’t need to increase the amount …
Now that’d be an example of business conducted in bad faith, wouldn’t it?
It’s this next bit which gets clearly naughty.
As I resignedly accepted the increase in our monthly payment, I was informed our tariff would be ending shortly and the best offer to replace it was a March 2016 online tariff which would reduce our monthly payments to £75.
And I could sign up there and then at the click of a button.
Actually, in the event, a number of buttons.
But … let’s not be churlish.
So I proceeded to the next screen to see what awaited me.
To my surprise, the system now said £94. There was a ton of legalese, on this screen and the previous – so it wasn’t a random act, this. Someone had spent plenty of time planning each step of the way.
Well. I wasn’t happy with it, I can tell you, so phoned up the company’s always useful and constructive helpline (this I do have to say, having had to battle fearfully with quite dire customer services helplines of other energy companies in the past) – and asked them for an explanation.
I was told it was because we were around £130 in the red.
I explained I’d given the meter reading before the first screen which then churned out the ever-so-attractive figure of £75.
It was explained to me that the first screen assumed £0 balance.
I retorted, gently, that the first screen didn’t clearly explain this as it offered the new, automated deal.
I was put on hold, and then politely informed we could manually adjust to £86, though no lower – this, after I had already mentioned the fact (which had then occurred to me) that an £80+ payment would be going through shortly.
So it was, at this moment, that I felt a kind of sharp practice was being practised here – and I think the woman who took my call was conscious of how I was reacting.
Immediately, she gave me – without prompting – my yearly consumption in both electricity and gas and agreed that with the information in question I could check out the alternatives on a comparison website.
I value Scottish Power’s always effective customer services – so even if I find a cheaper deal elsewhere, given the awful experiences I’ve had with one company in particular, I wouldn’t necessarily move on.
I don’t, however, value a system which offers you a new tariff by not taking account of data you’ve just updated – even as it does, using the very same data, manage to immediately and automatically increase by a galloping 30 percent your monthly direct debit payments.