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Energy firm apologises for distress caused to Highland woman over shortfall in customer service; Energy ombudsman intervenes following wrangle with company

By Val Sweeney

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Chloe Hardy found herself in a wrangle with her electricity supplier.
Chloe Hardy found herself in a wrangle with her electricity supplier.

An energy provider has been asked to make a goodwill payment of £125 to a Kiltarlity woman following a shortfall in customer service.

People’s Energy is also being asked to send a letter of apology to Chloe Hardy who was told she owed more than £2000 – despite having been previously told the amount was just under £600.

It follows the intervention of the energy ombudsman, which agreed Miss Hardy had experienced distress due to a wrangle with the company near Edinburgh.

She swapped from her previous provider to People’s Energy in September 2019 when she set up direct debit payments based on previous electricity usage.

But she discovered last December the payments did not cover the amount she was using at her two-bedroom house in Balgate Mill and she owed £671.

During subsequent phone calls and emails Miss Hardy, who suffers long-term health problems due to throat ulcers, was quoted varying amounts.

In a letter to Miss Hardy, the energy ombudsman said that according to the evidence, People’s Energy had multiple estimates on the account and, once the organisation received an actual reading, it produced a large catch-up bill as the readings had been underestimated.

The ombudsman accepted the company had now correctly amended the billing to show an outstanding balance of £743, but said there had been uncertainty for Miss Hardy.

"I do not doubt the distress that this issue and the shortfalls in service have caused you," the ombudsman stated.

"Therefore, in recognition of this and the time and trouble caused, I conclude that People’s Energy make a goodwill payment onto your account for £125 and they should send you an apology."

The ombudsman noted Miss Hardy’s home has an air source heat pump and added: "It may be beneficial to look at the efficiency of this to better understand its running costs.

"I understand that they can vary from 5kWh to around 14kWh.

"This could be anything from 78p an hour to £2.20 an hour based on size and efficiency."

Miss Hardy was grateful to the Scottish Government-funded charity Changeworks for helping to clear the debt.

"It is vital that such funding is in place," she said.

"Vulnerable members of society should not have to pay the costs when energy companies or advisers make mistakes."

Miss Hardy is now calling on her housing association, Albyn, to review the advice given on the use of air source heat pumps to prevent others finding themselves in a similar situation.

A spokesman for the People’s Energy Company said it would abide by the ombudsman’s ruling.

"We remain committed to providing the best customer service possible in all our dealings with our clients, we have taken on board our failings in this case and we are learning from them," he said.

"The People’s Energy Company would like to apologise to Ms Hardy for any distress or worry that the events of our recent dealings with her have caused."

A spokeswoman for Albyn said it would reflect on the feedback from the energy ombudsman.

"Albyn has been in contact with our customer and supported her throughout this process, and we will continue to do," she added.

Related story: Kiltarlity woman asks energy ombudsman to intervene in row

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