rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
A quick recap: last October, Good Energy sent me a bill for electricy use in November-December 2004.  I was surprised to be hassled for money 7 years later, especially as my accounts indicated I'd paid a "final bill" by cheque in December 2004.

Under the Code of Practice for Accurate Bills published by the Energy Retail Association, if the supplier is at fault, and the customer has not received a bill for energy consumed  for more than one year, then any outstanding amounts that relate to energy consumed  more than one year ago will be cancelled.

So I wrote to Good Energy, pointing out that they were breaking the industry Code of Practice, and refusing to pay the bill.  I got a reply within 24 hours confirming "that the balance of £61.41 has been cleared and you should receive no further correspondence from us."

I was therefore annoyed this week to receive a solicitor's letter claiming to be acting for Good Energy and demanding I pay them £61.41, complete with patronising (and misspelled)  "The debt will not go away if you chose to ignore it."  I am not sodding ignoring it.  I was told it had been cleared.

Good Energy is behaving in a distinctly bad way.  It is breaking the industry code of practice on billing, and should not be hassling customers and ex-customers in this way.  They certainly shouldn't be using solicitors to pursue them. It's unlikely that I'm the one and only customer being so hassled, and I find it offensive that these sort of tactics are being used to extract money, perhaps from people in far worse financial circumstances than mine, to which the company is not entitled due to their own errors.

So I have replied to their previous email expressing my unhappiness with receiving the solicitor's letter.  I have also written to the solicitors and copied in Good Energy for good measure, enclosing a printout of their own email saying the account had been cleared.  I'm also thinking of dropping a quick note to Which? and the MoneySavingExpert people, asking them to remind people of the Code of Practice for Accurate Bills and encouraging them to defend themselves from this sort of harassment.

Text of cross email and letter behind the cut, for future reference:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Following the correspondence below, I am disappointed to have received this week a letter from HL Solictors of Redditch demanding payment of the outstanding £61.41 on your behalf.

I shall be responding to the solicitors with a copy of your email below, but I would be grateful if you could ensure I do not get chased again.

Many thanks,

Rachel Coleman Finch

Dear Sir or Madam,

With regard to your letter of 25th January, I had prior correspondence with Good Energy in October 2011 in which they confirmed that I was not required to pay the outstanding sum of £61.41, as it had taken them 7 years to bill me for it. I enclose a printout of the relevant email.

As I am sure you are aware, under the Code of Practice for Accurate Bills published by the Energy Retail Association[1], if the supplier is at fault, and the customer has not received a bill for energy consumed for more than one year, then any outstanding amounts that relate to energy consumed more than one year ago will be cancelled.

I have contacted Good Energy directly reminding them of their previous correspondence with me, and shall also copy them on this letter.

Please do not contact me again regarding this matter.

Yours faithfully,

Rachel Coleman Finch

[1] http://www.energy-uk.org.uk/publication/finish/43/413.html


Date: 2012-01-29 21:27 (UTC)
hairyears: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hairyears
It's only a code of practice: this has very little force in law and they retain the right to pursue the debt.

A court might - and probably should - view them as having relinquished their claim, on reading their correspondence with you.

A court would consider - and might find in your favour - that Good Energy have no reasonable claim, on the basis that all parties to the contract should reasonably consider the code of practice to be a mutually accepted term of that contract...

But, then again, they might not find in your favour.

The regulator, OfGen, might order Good Energy.to drop all such actions - he has the legal power to intervene in cases of bad practice and inequitable contracts - and it is arguably the case that it is his statutory duty to do so when an industry code of practice is ignored.

But, then again, he might not.

Codes of practice are voluntary, and rely on a degree of good faith and goodwill. If Good Energy have withdrawn from the code of practice - and, presumably, from all aspirations to preserve the public's good opinion - then they are pursuing a perfectly legal profit-maximising strategy.

Unless, of course, they fall foul of the laws concerning harassment in pursuit of a debt. Or one of their demands is found by a court to be false, and known by them to be so: that would be fraud, and I hope that they have taken very good legal advice about that. All of this - dates, cotrespondence, legal obligations - is known to them and they cannot claim ignorance, nor defend themselves by admitting incompetence - however entertaining it might be to hear it in a court of law.

It would only take *one* such case to halt the whole process of this archival debt-recovery, and the consequences extend to criminal convictions, a potentially-bankrupting court order to review all attempted debt recovery to date, disqualification of directors, and - quite possibly - discipliniary procedings by the regulatory bodies for their legal advisors.

...Which leads me to comment on their solicitors. HL Solicitors of Reddich would do well do consider their reputation - and they would do well to demand good documentation and *all* correspondence before sending out such letters. One has to trust that they are doing so - I would not imply that they are negligent, let alone that they knowingly participate in sending fraudulent demants for payment - but the due diligence involved is labour-intensive (damned expensive!) and it's difficult to see how they can make a profit when the fees for the recovery of such small sums are surely nugatory.

On a personal note, I would urge you to check your credit rating. It shouldn't be affected by this: but it seems that lots of things that shouldn't happen, do.

I am, of course, entirely unqualified to offer anything other than a layman's personal opinion; and the opinions in this comment are personal opinions, mine and mine alone. Legal Opinions and Legal Advice are provided by qualified solicitors and barristers, and I hope that one or two of them will offer you the benefit of their experience, if you have not sought advice already.

Your local Law Society - and, perhaps, the Redditch branch - are very helpful people, and I'm sure that they would offer you some useful pointers.

Date: 2012-01-30 13:28 (UTC)
ext_267968: bjh (Default)
From: [identity profile] bjh21.me.uk
Actually, I don't think Good Energy retain any right to pursue the debt. Under section 5 of the Limitation Act 1980 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/id/ukpga/1980/58/section/5), the limitation period for contract claims is six years from the date when the cause of action accrued (assuming no acknowledgement of debt or part payment). In this case, the cause of action presumably accrued on the last contractual date for payment of the bill, which I'd guess was no later than early 2005, so the limitation period expired early last year.

Date: 2012-01-30 20:47 (UTC)
holdthesky: (Default)
From: [personal profile] holdthesky
A downside with checking your credit rating is that checking your credit rating too often can slightly decrease your credit rating. (Experian being based in Nottingham, many of the IT types have interesting stories to tell).

Checking a credit rating correlates with someone worried about their personal finances, and so who is likely to be a credit risk. There's the opposite argument you can make, of course, that wanton folk are unlikely to be interested in credit scores, but as with insurance, this was worked out from spotting correlations in earlier data rather than directly from a hypothesis, and was only discovered after they were forced to be more open with their data.

Date: 2012-01-30 08:32 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] woodpijn.livejournal.com
I think these energy companies are too large and multipartite to communicate adequately within themselves.

A few years ago I had an invalid bill which was even more clear-cut. There was a large flat whose owner had converted it into two small flats to rent out separately, and then I had come along and moved into one of the small flats. I gave my details to the electricity supplier, and they proceeded to bill me for electricity used in the large flat, before I'd moved in, before the flat I was living in existed. I phoned them and they agreed I wasn't liable for this and they'd cancel the bill; but then they sent me another bill. So I wrote to them and they wrote back and agreed to cancel it; and then they sent me a red final reminder. So I contacted someone more senior and they agreed to cancel it; and then I got a solicitor's letter. Eventually got it sorted out; but meanwhile, people in the company just weren't communicating with each other :(

(Can't remember which supplier it was now, but it's the sort of thing any of them might do)

Date: 2012-01-30 09:57 (UTC)
hairyears: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hairyears
Incompetence won't protect them - much - in a court of law. They can get away with it once or twice but, after that, the court would take a view that they *should* know and, in the knowledge that they need to check their paperwork before taking legal action, they are wilfully refusing to do so.

Disclaimers apply, as before.

Date: 2012-01-30 13:33 (UTC)
ext_267968: bjh (Default)
From: [identity profile] bjh21.me.uk
Did the solicitors include your account number or similar? I wonder if someone might have read your previous post and be trying it on (or trying to generate ill-will towards Good Energy).

Date: 2012-01-30 16:18 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hi Rachel,

We're really sorry to have let you down and are keen to sort this out for you as soon as we can. Please could you email our Head of Customer Operations Graeme on graeme.rushin@goodenergy.co.uk.


Good Energy


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
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