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#1628345 - 04/01/2019 06:35 What is it with utility companies?
MeanRedSpider Offline
Je suis un Coupé

Registered: 25/03/2006
Posts: 8628
Loc: Cambridge & Cotswolds
With the notable exception of Ovo Energy, I’ve had shocking experiences with every other utility company I’ve dealt with in the last two years.

The latest of these is, in some ways, the most shocking.

Cambridge Water, having not managed to send my daughter, Eve, a bill in the last nearly two years then sent her a bill for nearly £1000. I’d have been pretty upset if this was me but Eve, on account of her leukaemia and treatment, is registered disabled and on various benefits. Cambridge Water missed 3 billing cycles.

I dealt with them on Eve’s behalf. They initially offered a £60 reduction on the bill, saying they could have offered more had Eve contacted them asking why she hadn’t been billed earlier. This was like a red rag to me. I said the the agent that I’m sure, as Eve was in hospital, the thing foremost in her mind is why she hadn’t received a water bill...

To make matters worse though, a month after Eve moved in, the water meter had to be replaced. In the bill, Cambridge Water had estimated that the water usage for that ONE month was nearly 100m3 - 100 tonnes of water in a month!!! Or about 1/3rd of the total useage in the nearly two years. £218 of the bill was related to this month. Utterly shocking and dishonest.

To cut a long story (the call was over an hour) short, they’ve reduced the bill to under £400 which I will pay for Eve - but I’m appalled by this. There must be others in Eve’s situation or worse who don’t have the support of family to take these issues on.
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#1628347 - 04/01/2019 09:39 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
Submariner Offline
Enjoying the ride

Registered: 20/12/2005
Posts: 1187
Loc: Kent
Water companies have a monopoly in each of the areas they supply and their primary aim is profit for their shareholders, they appear to make little effort and expenditure in enhancing the supply network or co-operating together to end the annual water shortage farce. They have little sympathy or empathy for their customer's, more momey gained from you is more dividend and fatter pay packets for CEOs.

The regulators of Utility companies like OFWAT and OFGEN et al are legislated impotent, they also appear to condone the practices of the companies they are meant to 'police'; case in point between 2010-2015 OFWAT allowed water companies to make £1.2bn in excess water charges that OFWAT actually had the power to prevent, reduce and even cap. Wait for the utility companies to keep creaming off the cash, treating customers like cash cows and the infrastructure degenerating further, their business model would then advocate approaching the Govt/tax payer to bail them out....ring any bells?

I agree with you OVO were superb as are Bulb. The main 6 energy suppliers run a cartel the mafia would be proud of with equally appalling customer service.


Edited by Submariner (04/01/2019 09:50)

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#1628351 - 04/01/2019 11:39 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
PeteP Offline
Ex Presidente and Treasurer
Forum veteran

Registered: 22/12/2005
Posts: 18804
Loc: Aldershot
I too use OVO, they are even competitive when the contract ends and time to renew.

The worst ever energy company was Extra Energy, they made water companies look like paragons of virtue.

Extra Energy's billing was so chaotic with communication totally ignored that I cancelled the contract early and involved the Ombudsman who found in my favour. They even buggered up paying the compensation, telling the Ombudsman they had paid when in fact they had done no such thing.

Eventually it did arrive and so I was able to send it to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, so some good did come of it.


I have just googled Extra Energy and was pleased to see that they ceased trading in November 2018.
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#1628367 - 05/01/2019 07:30 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
Jim_Clennell Offline
Club member 105
Forum veteran

Registered: 16/12/2005
Posts: 16279
Loc: Corridor of Uncertainty
I agree about energy companies and utilities - generally shockingly bad. Good to hear praise for OVO. We use Ecotricity for both our home and work energy and they are pretty good. But they are based in Stroud, where we live, and are more about the ethical side than most (like OVO?).

Dreadful behaviour by Cambridge Water, which is most disappointing as - until this - I'd have said they were easily the best water company I've ever dealt with.

If it's any compensation, my experience of utilities in France and Spain was worse even than the UK.
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Jaaaag!

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#1628368 - 05/01/2019 08:59 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
MeanRedSpider Offline
Je suis un Coupé

Registered: 25/03/2006
Posts: 8628
Loc: Cambridge & Cotswolds
I work with a guy who used to work for Ovo (they’re based in Bristol) and he was explaining that they are really a software company that happens to sell power. He said that the trouble with the “big six” is their legacy systems just don’t work (parallels with banks there I think). Ovo push green power very hard.

I was impressed with Cambridge Water when we had issues with their stopcock - the fix was done quickly and efficiently. But this billing fiasco has been very shocking.

I’ve also been dealing with Virgin Media to close out the fibre connection - also utterly terrible and reminded me why I’d never use them again.
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http://www.alfa.me.uk

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#1628369 - 05/01/2019 09:56 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
barnacle Offline
Club Member 18 - Minister without Portfolio
Forum Demigod

Registered: 17/12/2005
Posts: 31978
Loc: Hemel in the Hempstead
And yet, and yet, I've had no issue in years with Virgin, either mobile or broadband. Just occasional 'why are you charging me this much, make it less' queries. I don't buy phones from Virgin and I don't slam phone data, so a fiver a month contract does all I need.

For gas and leccy, I find the Bristol have been fine for the last couple of years, in spite of their reputation. Again, though, I may not be the standard user: I read my meter every month (reminds me, they just sent the reminder) and they send me a bill. No way will I *ever* use a direct debit on a utilities bill -- they bill me for what I've used, even at the cost of a slightly higher contract rate.
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Don't get no respect! Coupe Fiat 1994-2000 - an owner's guide <-- clicky!

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#1628387 - 05/01/2019 20:19 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
MeanRedSpider Offline
Je suis un Coupé

Registered: 25/03/2006
Posts: 8628
Loc: Cambridge & Cotswolds
Virgin Media score 0.7 of a star on Trustpilot

Ovo Energy score 4 stars

That about matches my experience
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http://www.alfa.me.uk

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#1628391 - 05/01/2019 21:04 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
barnacle Offline
Club Member 18 - Minister without Portfolio
Forum Demigod

Registered: 17/12/2005
Posts: 31978
Loc: Hemel in the Hempstead
Interesting that Bristol also has 4 stars. Yet the reviews are either wonderful or dreadful...

Also, time to talk to virgin again about rates smile
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Don't get no respect! Coupe Fiat 1994-2000 - an owner's guide <-- clicky!

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#1628393 - 06/01/2019 00:29 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
Edinburgh Online   content
Club Board member
I AM a Coop

Registered: 04/03/2007
Posts: 10334
Loc: Auld Reekie
You really do get 'em Richard!

After thankfully jettisoning Scottish Gas and Scottish Power several years ago I've ended up with Bulb on a dual fuel contract which I'm pretty pleased with overall....you can even speak to an advisor shocked
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So there, Photobucket...

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#1628394 - 06/01/2019 07:13 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: Edinburgh]
MeanRedSpider Offline
Je suis un Coupé

Registered: 25/03/2006
Posts: 8628
Loc: Cambridge & Cotswolds
Originally Posted By Edinburgh
You really do get 'em Richard!


To be fair, I’ve been living a somewhat more complicated life over the last few years than your average person (luckily for the average person) so the chances of coming across the crappier companies out there is more likely. Some, though, like Honda or Mercedes have surprised me by how poor they have been.

To make matters worse, though, I’ve been a “Quality system professional” for the last 15 years which has trained me to think in a certain way and realise that many of these things don’t need to be the way they are.
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#1628397 - 06/01/2019 08:43 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
Jim_Clennell Offline
Club member 105
Forum veteran

Registered: 16/12/2005
Posts: 16279
Loc: Corridor of Uncertainty
On a bit of a side-track, (but you started it, Rich!)
Since starting our business, we've come to realise that review sites are the new altars, upon which you can be raised up or put to the sword.
We are encouraged by our HQ to use TrustPilot (but we've realised that this is because the reviews cover the entire brand rather than individual franchisees).
Then there's the ubiquitous Google, which literally puts you on the map. Bing is also in the mix, but far less influential.
The latest one we use (largely because we are getting it free as a trial) is Checkatrade.
They have a seriously thorough vetting process, covering everything from your accounts to customer service to actual repair process. They interviewed both MrsC and me and talked to our customers. The only drawbacks are that you have to pay to be a member and - more relevantly - we have scarcely had a single lead through it, despite having dozens of 10/10 reviews. We've been told, ironically, that we need a few less glowing reviews to make it look more realistic!
I must say that when looking at reviews of other businesses, I try to remove the extreme positive and negative ones and read the middle scoring, so perhaps there's something in it.
With regard to energy companies and other utilities, they must have to recalibrate, given the dreadful overall satisfaction levels...
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Jaaaag!

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#1628415 - 06/01/2019 19:34 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
magooagain Offline
Club member 259
Forum is my life

Registered: 22/10/2008
Posts: 6484
Loc: ked
Various forums have been talking about "Checkatrade" negatively.

Mainly diy oriented forums with people moaning after choosing bad tradesmen with glowing references from Checkatrade.

In the main,the replies have been is ,what do you expect with company's paying to be on the Checkatrade list.

Allthough on balance I know a few chaps listed there and they are top tradesmen in my opinion.
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Waiting for forum photo hosting!

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#1628429 - 07/01/2019 07:56 Re: What is it with utility companies? [Re: MeanRedSpider]
Submariner Offline
Enjoying the ride

Registered: 20/12/2005
Posts: 1187
Loc: Kent
Heard from a tradesman that the reviews/scores can be gamed on checkatrade and even -ve reviews removed, have no evidence to suggest that is true. Have used it a couple of times for plumbing issues experienced and both tradesman were good, well priced and efficient; would definitely use again if a personal recommendation could not be found.

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