The supplier’s cold comfort: vulnerable households need precise energy bills, no training tips, says VICTORIA BISCHOFF

Oh dear Ovo. The nation is facing an energy crisis that could cause the average bill to skyrocket to an alarming £ 2,000 a year.

More than two dozen electricity companies have gone bankrupt, and ministers are desperately pondering how to cushion the threat of price hikes, such as abolishing VAT on bills, increasing winter fuel payments and delaying tax increases.

Without urgent action, millions of vulnerable households could be forced to make the devastating choice between buying food and heating their homes.

Feel the heat: Complaints about energy suppliers are at a record high and it is becoming clear that some billing systems simply do not serve their purpose

So it is amazing that a large supplier could be so removed from reality that they think it appropriate to send their customers an email with “simple” energy saving tips like “cuddling with pets and loved ones”, “hearty food” “Bowls of porridge” and “make a few star jumps”.

An Ovo Energy spokesman has since apologized for his poor judgment. But his embarrassing mistake should serve as a wake-up call for all energy suppliers.

As we report, the way many companies treat their customers is a shame. Complaints are at a record high and it is clear that some billing systems are simply not fit for purpose.

Businesses may not be able to control wholesale prices. But with customers worrying about how they will afford their bills this winter, companies could at least make sure the claims they are making are correct.

Instead, we keep hearing from readers who have been given shock statements who falsely claim they owe hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

And when they try to question these, they are forced to hunt for months to fix the bugs.

Even customers with smart meters – who should guarantee that you only pay for the electricity they use – struggle to get accurate bills.

Many of these mistakes predate the current crisis. So it is high time that energy watchdog Ofgem investigated the problem of chaotic customer service in this industry.

In the meantime, companies need to make sure customers receive monthly bills so they don’t run into large debts.

Investment fears

Ouch. My investment portfolio has been hit hard since the beginning of the year after several technology-heavy funds fell in value.

Concerned that I was overvalued, I used Hargreaves Lansdown’s handy “portfolio analysis” tool to get an accurate breakdown of where my savings were being invested.

The pie chart results suggest that my money is well diversified between different sectors and countries.

So for now I will try my best to ignore the alarming red minus numbers and will stick to my regular investment strategy in the hope that my funds will recover.

Panicking now and selling will only result in real cash losses. However, this has served as a prudent reminder of the risk of over-investing in an industry.

Premium palaver

It took me weeks of listening to boring music on hold to reach Esure to update my card details and to contest my home insurance renewal offer.

For the first time, my premium had actually gone down – by a nondescript £ 2.86.

But a quick online search showed that there were better deals out there. A spokesperson for Esure says more than a fifth of employees are on sick leave, which is why call waiting times are longer than usual.

However, since no one stopped until after January 1 – when rules were put in place to discourage insurers from offering cheaper deals to new customers – it meant I lost much of my bargaining power. With only two days left until my policy expired, I had no choice but to stay here.

I’d be interested to know if readers have traded their auto or home insurance premiums since the New Year. Write to me at the email address below.

Mixed blessings

Finally, a big pat on the back to Virgin Media O2 for being the only major wireless operator that does not reimburse expensive roaming charges for customers traveling in the European Union.

If only the company stopped charging unfair exit fees of up to £ 240 on home removals when they can’t get their broadband service even in their new property.

v.bischoff@dailymail.co.uk

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