Despite contacting the police, Energywatch and npower's Complaints and Commissions team, Pravin Patel finds himself stuck in a contract that he maintains he never signed in the first place.
Two npower agents visited Pravin's business, Munro Stores in North London's Cricklewood, earlier this year, to try to persuade him to switch from Economy Power to npower to save on his energy bills. "They took some old bills, made some photocopies on my machine (and didn't pay for them) and now I am alleged to have entered into a five-year contract I did not sign."
He accuses the agents of falsifying his signature. He sent a copy of his passport to npower's Complaints and Commissions team so they could compare his alleged signature on the contract. Npower replied, saying it had carried out a thorough investigation and conceded to a "slight variance" between the two signatures, "consistent with the standard variations that any signature may have". The contract remains valid, concludes npower.
Energywatch wrote on Pravin's behalf, asking npower to resolve the matter, but npower isn't budging. He also contacted the police, who say it is a civil matter.
He consulted solicitors who say he will need a signature expert.
And, by the way, his energy bills have gone up.
I've looked at both signatures and can see differences, although not huge ones. What did occur to me is that it is a very clear, plain signature. I could probably forge it quite easily if I saw it written on a photocopy.
Mike Anthony, head of Complaints and Commissions, said the same thing to me when I rang him. "His is a very easy signature. But we have to go on the evidence we've got."
Two thoughts occur to me (and probably everyone reading this). Why would Pravin go to all this trouble to get out of a contract? Because it's costing him more. So why would he have signed it in the first place?