Simon Read: 'Scottish Power's stance on direct debits shows why complaints multiply'

One reader says he has been bombarded with letters from Scottish Power trying to increase his direct debit

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Scottish Power is the most complained about energy supplier in Britain, according to Citizens Advice. It says there were 1,163 complaints per 100,000 customers of the company in the last quarter of 2014.

That's the highest number ever recorded for one energy supplier and complaints about Scottish Power increased by 488 per cent throughout 2014. Its poor record led to it being banned from selling energy for 12 days in March after failing to meet Ofgem targets for resolving customer complaints.

Scottish Power has also annoyed Independent readers. You may recall my story last week about Gary Waldram, who was fed up after the company inflated his direct debit by 62 per cent.

He's not the only one to have a grievance with the energy giant. Joe Rock says he has been bombarded with letters from Scottish Power trying to increase his direct debit. He checked his energy usage figures to see if there was any justification for the rise and discovered that they were actually slightly down – so he wrote and complained. He heard nothing, of course.

But this week he checked his daily usage figures to see that they have jumped considerable since his complaint. "I don't like conspiracy theories but I'm beginning to think this wasn't an accident," he says. "I suspect that Scottish Power underestimates the cost of the energy used during the year, either by accident or design, when making the first quote – in order to win the account under the switching process. Then they seem to try to cover this up by modifying the direct debit."

It seems pretty unlikely that such a huge company would resort to such underhand tactics, so I'm not giving Joe's theory any real credence. However, would we really be surprised if it turned out to be true?

Susan Wilson reports that "I don't entirely trust Scottish Power" after it snatched more than £500 from the small company she works for, despite agreeing a £50 direct debit. Her solution to the problem of the direct debit increase is to pay by standing order.

"Unless I complete a new standing order form, the monthly payment remains unchanged," she points out. "It means I can take a meter reading and calculate usage and cost, and, if need be, negotiate an acceptable sum. It allows me to manage my fuel account and prevents Scottish Power from using the winter months' underpayments as an excuse to ramp up direct debits."

Other readers may find that suggestion useful. Finally, for this week at least, here's Ron Tulley, who has ended up with a credit balance of more than £1,000 with Scottish Power after it ramped up his direct debits. The company agreed to repay the cash last month when he complained. "But I have still not received the refund," Ron reports. "I've been told this is due to a fault in Scottish Power refund systems. I was told there are two systems in operation which do not communicate with each other!"

He says he has made repeated attempts to phone the complaints team, but can't get through. "A customer service agent told me that he was not allowed to transfer calls and that there was a small complaints team dealing with a large volume of complaints." But clearly not dealing with them very well! Keep your stories coming.

s.read@independent.co.uk

twitter: @simonnread

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