TONY HETHERINGTON: Madness on stilts… the way Ovo calculates its energy bills
Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s top investigator, driving reader engagement, revealing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those who don’t have to pay. Find out how to contact him below.
KP writes: I own a second home that was rented out. The tenant moved out and the house sat empty until I decided to use it as a weekend home three months later.
Since then, gas and electricity usually cost around £200 a month, but Ovo insists I owe more than £3,700. This appears to cover the three months the house was empty.
I have meter readings and have repeatedly asked Ovo to calculate the actual amounts but they have not done so. This is driving me crazy!
Tony Hetherington replies: They sent me copies of the invoices issued by Ovo and claimed a total of £3,757, which would be an incredible sum for just three months of gas and electricity.
Promise: Ovo’s claims about the service sounded hollow
But you also sent me the meter readings you received from the lawyers and real estate agents who handled the return of the property to you, and those readings should have been used as a starting point for your own bills. The numbers were nowhere near what you actually received.
When I contacted Ovo, the staff had concerns. They contacted you and said that the tenant took meter readings during their time in the house and reported very low readings on their bills. It was these low readings that Ovo used as a starting point that landed you a huge bill.
After juggling some numbers, Ovo concluded that you didn’t owe £3,757. Instead, Ovo owed you £675 and a further £100 to apologize for everything that went wrong. She and I both breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was resolved.
But that was not the case. A few days later, Ovo told you it wanted to collect £994 by direct debit from your bank every month. And then a bill came showing you owed Ovo £2,152. This wasn’t just madness, it was madness on stilts. Ovo blamed its own facility, saying the billing system was “live” and “the more meter readings you provide, the more accurate the recommended direct debit will be”. It was said that smart meters should be installed. However, the only result for now would be a direct debit for a slightly lower amount of £815, and this amount could only be reduced further once you agreed to pay the £815.
These debits were created by an automated system. In direct contrast, Ovo admitted to manually calculating that £252 a month was actually a more likely figure. But it couldn’t override his system.
This madness couldn’t continue, and even Ovo admitted it. When I pressed again for answers it sent you the previously agreed £675 as a credit to your account. An additional apology of £100 was sent. And it juggled its latest claim again and concluded you didn’t owe £2,152. Instead you owed £25.
So we breathed a sigh of relief again. Everything was good. But that wasn’t it. Ovo’s app suddenly asked you to set up a direct debit, this time for £816 a month. They’ve dumped Ovo now.
There is only so much insanity a utility customer can endure. But there seems to be no limit to the insanity that utilities in general can inflict on their customers.
Upset about the email to my late wife
CF writes: My wife died two years ago. We both banked with Santander and all the funds in their accounts were transferred to me by the bank’s bereavement department.
I have now received an email asking my late wife to go to a branch with proof of identity.
Excitement: After the loss of a family member, there are few things more exciting than receiving letters and messages from companies
Tony Hetherington replies: After the loss of a family member, there are few things more disturbing than receiving letters and messages from companies that have already been notified of the death of a family member.
When the email from Santander arrived, you contacted the bank, but no one could explain what went wrong or even tell you which of your late wife’s accounts it was. You were told someone would get in touch with you, but you haven’t heard anything else.
Santander told me: “We are very sorry that we made a mistake in sending this email.” “When we are informed of the death of a customer, we should switch off all communication with them and we investigate why this happened “It didn’t happen in this case.”
I can tell you that the cause of the problem was that someone tried to log into your late wife’s online account. Of course the account was already closed. It is impossible to say whether this attempt was deliberate, but the bank wanted to see your wife for security reasons. Santander recognizes the distress this has caused and has backed up its apology with £200 to donate to charity.
We are watching you
Essex Police are investigating allegations from investors in foreign exchange company CashFX.
I warned again in 2020 and 2021 that CashFX is trading illegally as it is not authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority.
The company is based in Panama but operates a network of recruiters in the UK and claims to pay returns of two to three percent per day. Many investors have complained that they have not received payments and cannot withdraw their funds.
An Essex Police spokesman said: “We are currently investigating a number of fraud allegations and are continuing our inquiries to establish the dynamics of the proposed investments.”
Anyone who would like to file a report should contact the police via Action Fraud.
If you believe you have been the victim of financial misconduct, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email email@example.com. Due to the large number of inquiries, a personal response is not possible. Please only send copies of the original documents; unfortunately they cannot be returned.