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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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We are currently having a dispute with Atlantic electric who

Resolved Question:

We are currently having a dispute with Atlantic electric who are the sole suppliers of electricity to our property. We have no gas. In February, 2013 our meter was changed and we had incorrect bills (night and day readings reversed) for the period from 7th July, 2012 to February, 2013. Also Atlantic claimed not to have been aware the meter had been changed. This was proven by a bill received in October last which quoted the registration number of the meter removed at 14th February, 2013.

In October, 2013 I changed our bank account and advised Atlantic accordingly. Since a bill was due at 22nd October I agreed to settle the outstanding amount by cheque and establish a new direct debit going forward. That was on the basis of what we had been paying, £ 29.00 per month. This amount was more than adequate since more often than not Atlantic owed us money when each bill was submitted.

The property which is served is a bungalow, with17 solar panels on the roof, wall insulation, loft insulation, double glazed windows and doors (double entrance doors to the back and front of the house each double glazed) and roof insulation. Electricity we generate, but do not use, is sold back to the National Grid via BG (approx. £ 1500 pa).

The bill we received in October 2013 from Atlantic was initially in excess of £900 but they owed us £ 178 at that point. We now have a further bill in the amount of £ 1,902.61 which is accumulative and includes a deduction of £ 178 Atlantic owed us. Atlantic dragged their feet and sent two representatives to remove the meter. Neither would do so as the bill was in dispute. Also, having removed the meter should it be found to be faulty, the evidence would have been removed and we would be expected to pay the bill regardless of the situation.

After the 8 week period and nothing having been achieved the Ombudsman was contacted and his deliberation was that Atlantic should rebill us for the July 2012 to February, 13 amount. This resulted in a refund to us of £ 18.56. We understand this to have been done by credit to our account but at the time of writing we have no evidence.

The Ombudsman also stated, amongst other things, Atlantic should:
1) upon receipt of the examiner's report inform us of the same
2)should the meter be inaccurate adjust the bill and
3) write to us offering a payment plan prior to 11th February, 2014.

The Ombudsman was aware we had, in December, asked for a visit from SGS and although we received a letter from SGS dated 27th January, 2014 we still await details of when we should receive a visit.

In partial accordance with the instruction of the Ombudsman we have received a letter and e-mail from Atlantic within which there is contradiction. On the one hand they state they are happy to hold all disputed charges until they receive the report from the Meter Examiner but go on to say that, since we are still using the power supplied, we are required to pay £192 per month. Should we not comply and set up a payment plan for the ongoing consumption, based on their forward projections using the disputed meter readings, by 13th February, 2014 they will instigate their normal collection procedures and we will pursued for payment for the total amount outstanding.

It does not seem to be recognised the functionality of the meter remains in dispute

Given our experience with Atlantic I am loath to set up a Direct Debit, or give any details of our Bank account. They do not wish to suggest anything in writing or give any guarantee that they will not help themselves to the full amount under any Direct Debit mandate which I might agree to establish. On the other hand I do not wish to entertain a County Court judgment against me nor the ballifs!

Any advice please?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.

Alex Watts : Hello my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return You do not need to wait here as you will get an email when I reply.
Alex Watts : How much is outstanding at the moment?
Alex Watts : Have proceedngs yet been issued?
Customer:

Sorry I have not responded earlier, we had trouble in picking up your message.

Customer:

The current claim is for £ 1902.61 but this amount takes into account £ 178.77 Atlantic owed us. We initially paid by direct debit of £ 29 per month but cancelled this when we changed our bank account, shortly before the bill was due and, we were alerted to the sudden change in metered charge. The claim from Atlantic is that we should pay £ 192 per month and have arrangements in place to do this by 13.02.14 or they will take proceedings against us for the total outstanding amount.

Customer:

We have not refused to pay but said once the meter is proven to be either correct or not we would settle the outstanding. We have set up a sub account within our savings account entitled "Atlantic" to which we have paid £ 30 per month since the last payment of £ 29 per month was made to Atlantic under the Direct Debit, in September.

Customer:

The solar panels have just returned a payment in the amount of £169 and we have kept a schedule of metered electricity since shortly after the dispute began. Our day usage is in the region of 30-40 units and night use around 45-50 units but has been as high as 78 units.

Customer:

No proceeding have yet been issued just the written threat. Atlantic want me to call them and discuss the payment plan which, given the threat, I am unhappy to do. Whilst all their calls are recorded I do not have that facility. I do not believe they have complied with the Ombudsman's instruction. Should I comply with their instruction to avoid the case being forwarded to their appointed debt collector and pay the £ 192 per month, by definition, would I not be agreeing I am satisfied the meter is recording accurately?

Customer:

Having taken the on-line survey from Atlantic, although it is unable to totally record the full level of insulation we have in the house, it shows an annual projected cost of £ 864.16 and recommends we lay additional mineral wool between the joists, upgrade heating controls and further insulate giving us a saving of £ 172 per year. What additional insulation we can have I cannot think. The loft is insulated as is the roof and the loft is boarded. The heating controls are computerised and factory set. I had thought of offering them £ 862.16 less the £172 spread over 12 months paid by Standing Order but, given their attitude to date, I cannot see them accepting this.

Customer:

Neither my husband nor I have ever defaulted on any payment and do not wish to start now we have retired. Atlantic seem to want to frighten us into paying. Whilst Atlantic state they will review the account on receipt of the Meter Examiner's Report and hold the disputed balance on account they go on to say we are expected to pay for the ongoing consumption as detailed above. From my perspective, until the meter is tested the account will remain in dispute..

Customer:

The last thing we need is for our Bank account to be subject to a Court Order and frozen. It is very worrying and, for my sins, I am suffering from Polymyalgia Rheumatica and not supposed to subject myself to any stress. Some chance!

Alex Watts :

What is it you want to achieve please?

Customer:

I look forward to your views and in the meantime, thanks and best regards

Customer:

Jan

Alex Watts :

Yes - what do you want to achieve?

Customer:

We can do nothing until the meter has been proven to be correct or incorrect and we are not adverse to paying something however we do not wish to give Atlantic carte blanche over our account so they are able to help themselves to what they deem is owing. Nobody at Atlantic has take direct ownership of the problem and SGS who have been appointed to test the meter have not yet given a date as to when they will come. We have been given a period of between 6 months and 2 years, depending on who you speak to. If we pay what they are asking and the meter is proven to be incorrect with 2 months we would have paid more than we had been paying, annually, in the past years. Atlantic do not wish to put anything in writing other than demands.

Alex Watts :

Yes I would agree. I would set out in writing that you do not intend to pay the balance until it has been resovled.

Alex Watts :

If they try and issue proceedings then you can show what the Ombudsman has said and the fact there is a specialist looking at the meter.

Alex Watts :

The Judge will want to be satisfied that the meter is correct and the readings accurate.

Alex Watts :

In any event it would take them about 6 months to take you to Court and EVEN if they did win and you had a CCJ against you, if you pay within 28 days then it is cancelled anyway - so there is NO risk of a CCJ there

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer:

Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX for the moment. I have to telephone the Ombudsman tomorrow and will draft a letter to Atlantic today copied to the Ombudsman (sent in both instances by Recorded Delivery). My background is international marine finance and I have had very little to do with UK small claims so I feel rather ignorant and therefore vunerable.

Alex Watts :

Yes I can imagine.

Alex Watts :

But a Court would probably stay proceedings pending the outcome of investigations anyway.

Alex Watts :

If this answers your question could I invite you leave feedback on my service which I hope has been excellent today, if you need more information or help then please click reply.


Please remember that I am always happy to help if you have future questions, even if I am in Court I can normally respond within a few hours. For future information, please start them with ‘For Alex W’.


 


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Customer:

Thank you. Sorry for the delay in coming back to you. Why is it that when you desperately need the computer to function properly it gives up on you?

Alex Watts :

Yes I know - happens to us all!

Alex Watts :

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