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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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An energy company has been threatening me -payment of

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An energy company has been threatening me for non-payment of my bills for nearly two years, despite the fact that I have TWO letters which tell me my account is clear. Whenever they write to me the figure quoted is different.
After I got the letters saying my account is clear they allowed it to be transferred to another company. Since then I've received a letter dated 1st November saying I owe £146,07 and they will send someone in to collect the sum and also change my meters to prepayment ones. They didn't respond to my reply. I then received a letter dated 9th December saying I owe £274.98 and if I don't pay it they will take legal action. A local solicitor has said that I risk having to pay more than the sum being demanded if this goes ahead. Is this true? What can I do?
Val Hatton
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.
Whilst there is a risk that you may pay more than what is demanded that would only happen in the event that the energy company takes you to court, manages to persuade the court that the money was indeed owed by you and you did not make attempts to pay it and is successful in obtaining a county court judgment against you. However, they will only be able to add costs such as the claim fee and hearing fee, they cannot automatically charge you for their legal costs because this matter would go to the small claims court and each party bears its own legal costs there. So if you are confident that you do not owe them anything and this is just an error on their part, then you should not be too concerned because even if they go to court, they still need to prove that the money is owed. If they cannot do that then they cannot win against you and you would not be obliged to pay them anything. You say you have already tried the Ombudsman and you should continue with that to full completion if possible – they are an independent body so they will not be swayed in anyone’s favour unreasonably. If they rule in your favour then that outcome would be binding on the energy company. If this was to go to court then at least you know that they would need to provide evidence to back up their claim and you would then know once and for all whether any money is owed or not. As mentioned, if you were to lose, then the costs you would have to pay on top would not be astronomical but at least you would know that a court of law has found that you were liable to pay what they were claiming (or some other amount if it was less). Also there is no guarantee that they will take legal action – many companies use that as a threat to try and make debtors pay but do not actually go ahead with it. Often it would cost them more to pursue such a claim than to write off the sums involved so you may find that this goes no further, although only time will tell. In the meantime, try to get them to send you a full breakdown of exactly how they have arrived at these figures and why they believe you still owe them anything. I trust this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page). If for any reason you are unhappy with my response or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

In the latest reply from the Ombudsman I was given four areas they could cover. Mine was not listed.

How can you say the Ombudsman is independent when they are financed by the energy companies?

This battle began when I signed on with them and they drastically underestimated my energy costs. I was contracted to pay £41 per month. When they realised their mistake they increased it to £90 per month, but in their typically inept fashion they didn't allow sufficient to cover the sum accrued. I have serious mobility problems so someone comes from time to time to read my meters. The rest of the time it is estimated. In October 2013 my statement arrived saying I owed in excess of £1,100. At the same time it was impossible for me to get in touch with them. In desperation, in February 2014 I cancelled my Direct Debit. Letters, demands and threats began to flood in. I continued to pay the contracted sum from my bank without renewing the Direct Debit. I now have a file several inches thick in which they consistently avoid answering any of my comments or questions.

In July 2014 they sent two "high class" (i.e. very smartly dressed) debt collectors to collect £83.43. When they saw the amount of correspondence I have, one of them read my meters (with my agreement) and then rang the company. The amount they were to collect had mysteriously gone up to £236.07. I said I wouldn't pay it as I was still waiting for a response from the Ombudsman. They were pleasant and courteous the whole time they were here. I wonder how much that will have cost the energy company.

What makes you think they would balk at paying the cost of court action when they haven't been worried about how much it has cost them so far to threaten and harass me?

I am also concerned that wherever I turn for advice the only matter for concern is the money. I am 77 years old; a widow, living alone, with serious mobility problems, and it seems to be okay for them to attempt to intimidate me over more than two years. Another name for it is bullying, and I thought this was against the law.

I'm sorry, Ben. I'm sure you are doing your best to help. Most of the time I manage this well with the support of family and friends, but I have had a very bad day. It makes me wonder what it would be like for someone in my position, but without support that I have.

With best wishes

Val Hatton

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.
Hello Val, the ombudsman is financed by the energy companies not because of their choice - thy are required to provide support towards an independent organisation to resolve consumer complaints. This is not their choice and I can assure you that the Ombudsman is entirely independent.
I of course cannot guarantee that they would not take this further but companies are usually commercially minded and if something looks like it will cost a lot more than what can potentially be recovered then it would make commercial sense not to pursue it just to save money. Whilst personal claimants may operate on grounds of principle, corporate bodies would mainly be concerned with the commercial side of things and what is economically viable.
And whilst I understand that this has been distressing, legally the only issue is that of money. If you are a debtor then you can be pursued for the amount owed. It is not necessarily bullying, you may see it as such but it is just a long process which can be pursued legally. Just because you do not like getting the demands or debt collectors does not make it unlawful if the other side has a genuine right to pursue what they believe they are owed.
So if it remains unresolved then it may end up in court, who knows. But then at least you know it is the end of the matter and even if you lose you would not have to pay much more than what is sought.
Hope this clarifies things a bit more?
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 46792
Experience: Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you, Ben. I appreciate your help, if not the result! I thought lone people like me had some protection from the big boys.

It appears that my only viable recourse is to go to Watchdog or the press and get EDF Energy the most adverse publicity I can.

I am not a vindictive person (which is why I didn't mention the name in the beginning) and won't do this until I am feeling calmer and have had a opportunity to talk to my son.

Thank you, again.

Best wishes

Val

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.
Hi Val, a debtor is a debtor, whether an individual or a bigger company. So if money is owed, the body to which it is owed can pursue it using the available methods, which can include demand letters, debt collectors, or even court. Whilst I fully understand these steps may not be welcome and you could feel harassed or bullied, they are legal and the creditor has the right to pursue what they believe is owed, until a formal body finds otherwise. I wish I could just tell you of a way to stop and resolve all this but you simply cannot force them to unless they decide they no longer wish to pursue this or a formal judgment has been issued in your favour, such as through the courts. If you are satisfied with the service so far I would be grateful if you could please quickly rate my answer by selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page - it only takes a second to do and is an important part of our process. I can still answer follow up questions afterwards if needed. Thank you

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