It’s the question I always ask electricity suppliers when they refute complaints that the rep’s promised one thing and the contract delivered another. When you switch suppliers, it’s still the same stuff that comes over the wire to you. Only the paperwork, known as the tariff, changes. I’ve been quite busy lately following up a couple of retailers’ complaints about npower reps who verbally promised a better deal, although the paperwork, when it arrived, showed the opposite.

I’ll say this for npower. They have now delivered on both counts. The first tale concerned Crawley-based Tushar Patel, whom I featured in both the July 1 and July 15 issues. He reported the company to the watchdog Energy Watch who chased npower. I also chased and npower has now agreed to the terms promised by the rep until the year 2010, backdated to when the contract was signed in March this year. So now, as promised, Tushar’s bill has gone down rather than up.

When Yogita Patel first read about Tushar’s problem, she rang me with a very similar experience (even down to the agent’s name being the same, although in actual fact it was two different reps).

She runs a Londis in Brentwood, Essex, and was pleased to sign up for better rates on her electricity, although she was not given a copy of the contract. The rep reassured her that it would arrive with the ‘starter pack’.

The interesting point about this particular conversation is that it was captured on film, on the shop’s closed circuit security camera. The footage clearly shows that the rep did not hand over a copy of the contract.

I got in touch with npower’s press office and, after their investigation, was sent the following comments from Wendy McCormick, business sales manager for the company: “We are very sorry for the trouble Mrs Patel has encountered and have contacted her to apologise. We have also reassured her that her contract has now been cancelled and that her supply will be returned to her previous supplier. Npower takes complaints of this nature very seriously indeed. Our sales staff are very rigorously trained and the induction, ongoing sales training and field sales supervision are all designed to meet our high standards. We have strict, auditable procedures in place to address any complaints, and the sales adviser concerned has now been suspended pending a full investigation.”

Furthermore, and off the record, I can report that npower sent Yogita a bunch of flowers, which is a nice gesture, because she’s not just a busy shopkeeper, she also had a baby just a couple of months ago, so no one could accuse her of sitting around, idly complaining because she has nothing better to do.

A final PS to this story: a retailer who requested anonymity, for reasons that will become obvious in a moment, told me how he got round the problem of finding that his energy bill had gone up when it was supposed to have gone down. He rang up and told the company that he was going out of business. I believe the supply has now been switched back to the original company, with the bills going out in the name of the retailer’s brother (because, as I said at the beginning, the only thing that switches hands here, is paperwork).
So the saga is over and everyone’s happy: for the time being at least.

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