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JimLawyer
JimLawyer, Solicitor
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Experience:  Senior Associate Solicitor
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I am in dispute with SSE regarding a summer quarter bill for

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I am in dispute with SSE regarding a summer quarter bill for £570. It was estimated. My bill last year for the same quarter last year was £194. They installed a smart meter then I was told it didn't work so they sent an engineer
JA: Where are you? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: I I am in dispute with SSE regarding a bill for £570 for the summer quarter. They said if a smart meter was installed my problem would be sorted. It hasn't. Twice they have said smart meter isn't working but they won't send anybody out to repair it. I have spent approximate 20/25 hrs talking on the phone. It is starting to impact on my health Everytime I ring they say its been sorted. I have just spent 55 mins once again and the telephone assistants ended the call. She said account has been sorted and I owe £570 (I have paid £300) I do know I am using some electricity. We have gas heating. I am now having sleepness nights. I also have to deal with a disabled husband. I am in my 70s and spending hours and hours on telephone it really is impacting my health. Everyone I speak to says they have sorted the problem one even told me I was £145 in credit. I am tempted to pay and then change suppliers just to have peace of mind but my husband won't let me. He is unable to help me deal with it. How much would it cost for you to deal with it. I asked for a dispute form but they refused
JA: The Lawyer will be able to walk you through that. What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: I have spent 20 hrs on telephone. I agreed to have a smart meter against my wishes.I have asked for a dispute form which they refused. I have today received another threatening letter and spent 59 minutes on the telephone. I was told my account had been sorted and my new bill is £577 which means I have had a total bill of £870. I didn't used that amount of electricity in the 12 months prior to that. I have had a total of 4 engineers out. They said (at the time in September when they read the meter) that I was being charged for 2000 units I hadn't used. At one stage the operator on the phone said if I read the meter it would be resolved. Neither of us could read it so we just gave some figures (thinking it would all be resolved when smart meter was installed. Unfortunately the reading he gave put the bill up even more even though I told them he was disabled physically and mentally and didn't know what he was doing. They hounded us to read meter. It was distressing for us at the time. They even suggested asking a neighbour to read it which was not feasible
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: I don't think there is anything else I could of done and to the best of my knowledge I have given you an accurate account. I did try the citizen advice in Weston but a notice was on the door saying they were closed and telephone appointments only. I have spent so much time on the phone at the time it was beyond me

Hello, this is Jim and welcome to JustAnswer.

Thank you for the question, I am reviewing the details now and I will aim to resolve it as quickly as possible for you.

Sorry to hear of the problem, however it can be sorted quickly and easily given that the dispute is covered by an Ombudsman scheme.

No lawyer is required for this as it is designed for consumers who are in dispute with an energy supplier.

To avail of the scheme you have to first make a complaint to the energy company, wait for their final response and then go to the Ombudsman.

In the meantime you should dispute the bill. They should not take any enforcement action for the duration of the complaint investigation.

If they do present you with a large estimated bill, you must make a formal complaint and if that does not resolve the matter ask them for a "deadlock letter", which is a letter giving their final response.

If the complaint is for high or estimated meter readings, a template letter can be found here which maybe useful :
https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/letter/letter-to-complain-about-an-inaccurate-meter-reading-aMv2L5c70DGW

The complaint to SSE can be made here which has a form to complete online : https://sse.co.uk/about-us/sse-and-you/making-a-complaint

Once you have the deadlock letter the next step would be to escalate this to the Energy Ombudsman - they will investigate and liaise with the energy company which would hopefully result in a reduction, or a cancellation with no bill to pay.

The Ombudsman can order the energy company to make a financial award for inconvenience if they have acted poorly.

The service is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 so you have a right to expect a reasonable service which is carried out with care and skill - if you do not receive this then the regulator will step in.

Once you have SSE's final response, you can complain to the Energy Ombudsman by email here: *****@******.***

Or via their website here: www.ombudsman-services.org/energy-complaint.html

If they sued (which I highly doubt if you make the complaint now and then go to the Ombudsman) then the court will send you a claim form and a response pack - you must fill in the response pack to confirm you want to defend the claim and then return it to the court. If you ignored it or delayed then the claimant can request default judgment (which means a county court judgment, or a CCJ).

I hope this answers the question. If you have any follow up questions then please do let me know.

Many thanks,
Jim

Just a final note that I am free most days and would be happy to assist with any other queries you may have.

Best wishes,

Jim

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Thank you for all your information. Can I request a deadlock letter by post? I don't think I will be able to make another phone call and be refused as I was this morning. I am reluctant to give my email address I am not fully confident using the Internet, my husband used to do all that but now he is unable to

Yes, you can indeed - they should send you a letter. The key is to make the complaint now using their online form.

Apologies, I can’t take a call at the moment but other experts are free to contact you. If no one calls you then you will not be charged for it - an "authorisation" has been made for payment, that's all. However, the call request is open to all experts so will remain available until it’s either taken by another expert or if you cancel it. If you would like to cancel the call and the charge, customer services can be contacted either by email (*****@******.***) or here: www.justanswer.co.uk/help/contact-us

JimLawyer and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 12 days ago.
I have been unable to access the complaint form on line so I have written to them today. I had a phone call yesterday from a solicitor which I thought wasn't helpful. He asked me to send a copy of the letter I had had, but it was just a standard letter they send out to people who don't pay the bill.Now he is suggesting I ask for a breakdown of wattage I have used and If they can provide it I will have to pay the bill. But they tell you how much wattage you have used when they send the bill. That is the problem I am disputing the amount of wattage. If you take into account the amount if £577;they are demanding plus £360 I have paid that is £937. That is probably for 4/5 months now. We live in a 2 bedroom bungalow with gas central heating. We do have an electric fire but hardly use it because we have gas central heating and have certainly not put it on since June/July when all this started. If the bill is right then we will have to not watch television sit in the dark and not use the microwave that is the only electricity we use apart from fridge and kettle

Thanks, ***** ***** though I do not think the bill is correct given the high sum for a 2 bed bungalow - it would be worth challenging.
I mentioned in my answer that if the complaint is for high or estimated meter readings, a template letter can be found here which maybe useful :
https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/letter/letter-to-complain-about-an-inaccurate-meter-reading-aMv2L5c70DGW

Energy prices have gone up to due to fewer providers now however that sum looks very high indeed

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
The phone call lasted no more than 2 mins which I think was a bit pricy at £22 per minute. I contacted this service as I had reached desperation point. The information you sent was helpful although I think I will need help to implement it. I am exhausted from all the phone calls I have made which usually last 45/55 minutes and have been almost weekly

Thanks, ***** ***** lawyer I do not deal with the customer service side of things here - customer services can be contacted either by email (*****@******.***) or here: www.justanswer.co.uk/help/contact-us or for refunds please use this link: www.justanswer.co.uk/help/how-to-request-refund

We do not act for people or draft documents for people either - we are an internet forum and not a law firm (which is why we can't act for people). Moreover, a dispute with an energy provider being covered by an ombudsman scheme means lawyers do not generally become involved either. Mainly because if you pay a lawyer (they charge £200 per hour on average), you cannot recover those fees from SSE, making it uneconomical. If you come to the point that you have to sue them, this is where a lawyer would be worth instructing but even then, if it's a claim under £10,000 (a small claim) again, the costs recoverability is also an issue.

If you do need a lawyer to act for you then there are pro bono (free of charge) lawyers who could assist you. You can try these firms for legal representation (they are a charity who connect you to pro bono lawyers) : LawWorks or /www.nationalprobonocentre.org.uk/finding-legal-help/

Here is another: https://www.lawcentres.org.uk

And there is this one : Advocate: Finding free legal help from barristers

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
Thank you but I haven't been able to find the template letter. My husband used to do all the computer work but is now unable to do so and I am having to self teach
Customer: replied 12 days ago.
Thank you I will give it a go. Just one more question if I pay the bill which I am tempted to do because it is now impacting my health (I would have to do without my husbands knowledge) would I then have the same problem given they have admitted the smart meter is faulty or would the new supplier be inclined to sort the meter. SSE have said 4 times they will send somebody to sort the meter out but after the first time nobody has been

You could pay it under protest, to ensure your supply continues, and the Ombudsman can force them to reimburse you if they uphold your complaint, yes.
That may be a good idea given the current weather and the fact the Ombudsman does not take too long to make a decision (you are a consumer so they should agree with you and uphold your complaint).