Questions Of Cash: Scottish Power is trying to charge me for its mistakes

 

Q. I make a monthly, direct debit payment to my energy supplier, Scottish Power, for an Economy 7 tariff, with storage heaters providing my main heating. I live alone in a two-bedroom terraced house. Almost 12 months ago, I told Scottish Power that I was being billed for more electricity in the daytime than overnight, which did not fit in with my use. I suggested my meter readings had become transposed and this turned out to be the case.

In June 2011 I received refunds on both my electricity and gas accounts and my monthly direct debit was reassessed accordingly. The problem re-emerged in September and I told Scottish Power that it had misrecorded my meter readings. Again, the matter was resolved and agreement reached that I was in credit.

But in December I was informed that I was £1,356 in debt. Scottish Power now says that the refunds were issued in error. My direct debit has jumped from £72 to £112 to repay the balance. This is grossly unfair and I am expected to meet the cost of Scottish Power's mistakes. It also flies in the face of Scottish Power's customer charter relating to accurate and timely bills, prevention of debt build-up, and regular checks to ensure direct debit payments closely match the amount of energy used. PJ, Bury.

A. Scottish Power accepts that it wrongly billed you. A spokeswoman says: "We carried out a full investigation into [the reader's] account and due to errors on our part we have decided to clear the outstanding balance. We apologise for the inconvenience."

Q. I inherited my aunt's terraced house in Burry Port, Wales. Welsh Water's fees for sewage are massive compared to London, even though my house in West Hampstead is far bigger. No one else can supply the water in Wales and the additional drains bill is a rip-off. GS, London.

A. Welsh Water is owned by the not-for-profit company Glas Cymru. A spokeswoman for Glas Cymru says: "Our charges may be higher than other water companies because we serve a very large geographical area with a relatively small population, compared with most other parts of England and Wales. We therefore have more pipes, sewers and equipment to operate and maintain than other water companies. All of this is reflected in the level of bills charged to customers, which are set by the water industry regulator Ofwat. It is important to note, however, that as a result of our operating and financing efficiency, our average household bills will be 6 per cent lower in real terms in 2015 compared to 2001 when Glas Cymru took over ownership."

Q. For the past three years, I have owned an apartment in Dubai, which I let through property agents Mayfair International, based at Marble Arch Tower in London. The tenant pays three cheques a year through an agency in Dubai, E-Valuations. I am supposed to receive an electronic payment as soon as the agent in Dubai has received a cheque. This worked well until 18 months ago, since when all the payments have been a month or so late.

The latest payment was apparently made by the tenant on 4 November, yet I am still waiting for it. I cannot get hold of anyone in either the London or Dubai offices, other than the managing director, Amani Choudry. I expected to have this money by now and need it to pay bills. She has told me four times that an electronic payment has been authorised in Dubai. The rental agreement runs out on 4 March and I have appointed another agent to handle thereafter. DP, by email.

A. The phone number for Mayfair International now rings unobtainable and we were unable to find a listing for an office of E-Valuations in Dubai. (We did locate other businesses called "E-Valuations", and similar, that are unconnected to the Dubai agency.) We spoke to Amani Choudry at the beginning of January, who told us that the Mayfair International business in London is no longer trading. Ms Choudry claimed that a payment had been delayed by the Christmas and New Year holidays and would be with you by the second week of January. She explained that the Dubai agency was responsible for the delay. Ms Choudry also told us that the payment would be considerably less than the amount you expected. You tell us that previous payments have not been accompanied by any explanation for how the amount was calculated.

We requested from Ms Choudry the details for the Dubai agency in order to contact them to request a reconciliation of the amount that you believe you were due and the sum that Ms Choudry indicated would be paid. Although she repeatedly promised to provide this information, she failed to do so. Eventually, at the end of January, a firm offer of a final payment of rent collected was made by Ms Choudry. This consists of 6,000 Arab Emirates Dirham, less deductions for cleaning, fitting a new shower and toilet seat and related labour, providing a net payment of AED 4730 – about £819 – which you have agreed to accept. Part of the reason for the delay seems to be a loss of mutual goodwill following your instruction towards the end of last year to the Dubai agency to sell the apartment. You changed your mind after the agency apparently undertook a substantial amount of work to sell the property.

Ms Choudry advised you to accept the offer of rent, less deductions. She wrote to you: "I feel that they have been really fair to you. Especially after the fact that you decided not to sell when they spent three months trying to achieve your target price." Apparently you did not get independent legal advice when conducting the sale or appointing an agent in Dubai. We suggest that professional advice should be taken when entering into such an important transaction and that suitable references are obtained before appointing a property agent in another country.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk

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