I have had two bruising encounters in the last 2 weeks with two very big organisations and I fear this is symptomatic of what I have come to expect of big organisations. People slag off Ed Miliband for supposedly demonising big organisations but forgive me they are bad and nasty and unforgivably INCOMPETENT and I should know. TRUST ME. Below is the breakdown of my encounter with one of them.
About 18 months ago, I moved accommodation. Bigger place for relatively less money if you compare what I was getting to what I was giving up. As I try my best to be meticulous, I notified all my utility providers of my last day at the premises by calling their expensive 08 numbers. My electricity provider was having none of it as they wanted me to call at a later date. I was determined not to. I have called you and notified you. I have my call records to evidence this. I will not call at a later date.
13 months after I moved out, I got a letter at my new (13 MONTHS OLD) place claiming they had been looking for me and will now charge me £12 for the privilege of finding me, asking for over £100 unpaid electricity bill, threatening me with bailiffs, court case and a poor credit history.
What a cheek? I was incensed & livid. These 'people' have my mobile phone number and email address and had to spend £12 looking for me. GREAT. As my account with them was always in credit as I paid by direct debit, I wasn't too worried of the final outcome. In fact I expected a refund of approximately £30 from them after leaving the premises in question. However as I was determined not to call them, I let the £30 go. Also, I knew my electricity consumption profile guaranteed that there was no way I was owing anything.
I replied to their first letter asking them to log my letter as a complaint. By the way, I don't know about you but I am tired of calling utility companies (water, mobile, telephone, TV, Gas, Electricity, Banks, Council etc) by telephone. Their numbers are expensive to call and the people who pick up the phone are NUMPTIES. No power of comprehension. They don't have a brain cell between them and are very versed like a parrot at repeating their well rehearsed lines. You dare not ask to speak with their manager. I know for a fact you get bollocked for passing on a call to your manager.
I sent my letter via the registered mail facility. Another bug bear of mine is that big companies are very adept at 'not receiving' your letter if sent by normal post. They are also adept at 'not finding' any records of your calls when they have cocked up. This is why I will always send my letters by registered post and seek to reclaim my cost from them. I'm sure they will find a way around this very soon.
In my letter, I asked for the meter readings for the outstanding bill. NO RESPONSE. 2 weeks later, I received another threatening letter. Same spiel. I responded in a similar manner. All these while I was living in fear that a bailiff might turn up or court summons might be posted through the door.
There was no response to my 2nd letter although the next demand from them was a for a reduced amount. The outstanding had now gone down to £60. I knew I had them. They didn't have any readings. They only wanted to try it on.
I then wrote a 3rd letter to the Executive Complaint Team and had a mealy mouthed guy call me on my mobile. WHOOPEE EFFING DOO. They were looking for me but had my mobile number all along. They had also sent me a marketing email in the interim.
The guy on the phone tried to be smart and said they were going to write off the outstanding debt. I suspect he was expecting me to kiss his backside. I told him where to jump off and made clear I wasn't expecting debt forgiveness. He threatened not to write the bill off which meant that the process (Court Case, Bailiffs etc) will continue. I told him off and made him understand that the UK wasn't quite at the level of Iran and Afghanistan yet. There are laws (barely I dare say) in this country my friend and your threats are baseless. I was now more confident of the whole outcome. To me, this was an admission they had got it wrong.
I told him never to call me EVER AGAIN and to put any offer at resolving my complaint in a letter. I have since received the letter. The deception and incompetence contained in the letter is staggering. They claimed to have responded to my initial letters by writing to my old address. BIG FAT LIE. The same address I quit almost 18 months ago. LIAR LIAR PANT ON FIRE. They know how to send the 'bills' to the right address but the complaint response to the wrong address. YOU COULDN'T MAKE IT UP.
They offered me £25 as a goodwill gesture. Seems remarkably close to the £30 refund I was expecting initially. This offer has even incensed me further. You have threatened me and wasted my time. I have spent hours outside of my daily routine writing unnecessary letters to you, expend not insignificant sums posting those same letters to you, spent time worrying that bailiffs will turn up at my door and you offer me £25. NAUSEATING
I have reviewed the meter readings they sent and it is a JOKE. A very unfunny one. It is way out by over 2 weeks and just reinforces my thoughts that they were making it up all along. Write Joe Public a threatening letter, he panics and pays up and our shareholders are richer. CAPITALISM WORKS.
The system is broken. The system that allows a big corporation make the life of the common man a misery for no reason bar that big company' incompetence. For me, this is not an isolated case. This is very symptomatic of big companies and I have epexerinced it at first hand.
I am still debating on my next steps. Ideally if I have the power, I will ensure there are heavy fines for companies that engage in this debacle especially in cases like mine where their incompetence is glaring.
I will make sure that the Contact Centre staff of big companies are empowered to make decisions and where the decision to be made is above their pay grade that the situation be referred to their managers. Do these companies really believe in customer service or do they believe in inconveniencing the customer so much that they just pay off to get them off their backs?
If I had the power, I will make sure that the Credit Reference Agencies can take out any item on your Credit Report in real time once there is a dispute with a provider. Of course they can then add the item later once the dispute is resolved in the provider's favour.
If I had the resources, I will institute a class action suit against all energy providers to determine if there is a possibility of winning massive payouts for people they have treated in the same way. My gut feelings tells me this is a lucrative business avenue for these companies. Also I will tear up the whole of their complaint resolution process and procedures and take their staff on a massive retraining programme.
Finally, I am still thinking of my next steps. I will certainly be contacting OFGEM on this matter and If I don't receive a reasonable and favourable outcome, I shall be contacting the responsible minister for Energy Companies and my MP and will genuinely love to turn this into a Media issue.
To think some people in less developed countries, hold the UK and Europe out as ideals to be emulated when you talk about competence and customer service. I have been cured of that delusion.