I am scared of being taken to court after ScottishPower bill shambles

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I am frightened that I am going to be taken to court by ScottishPower for a bill of £1,015 when I’m not, and never have been, a customer.In June 2018 I changed my supplier from E.ON to Bulb. Each month Bulb debited £53 from my account. It transpires that in July 2018 ScottishPower took over my electricity supply without my knowledge. Bulb was also unaware of this, and continued to take the monthly payments. A year later, in June 2019, a baffling email from Bulb informed me that my old supplier had stopped my electricity switch. I was told that ScottishPower had erroneously transferred my supply and was returning it to Bulb.

In February this year I happened to open a piece of junk mail addressed to “The Occupier”. It contained a huge bill from ScottishPower backdated to July 2018. Since then, I have had a stream of bills, sometimes several a day for very different amounts. Moreover, I’m on ScottishPower’s expensive standard tariff. Bulb refunded me the £795.89 that I had paid during the period when it was no longer my electricity provider, but I have got nowhere with ScottishPower. I discovered that suppliers are not allowed to charge for more than 12 months of unbilled energy. ScottishPower finally acknowledged this in July and offered to settle for £723.88 to reflect Bulb’s lower tariff.

I paid over the phone, and was assured that my account would be switched to my preferred new supplier. I have subsequently received several more bills from ScottishPower, each being for a different sum, one for more than £1,000. I’m now told that the sum I paid was for the supply up until February 2019 and that I owe more than £1,000 for the period since then. I’ve pointed out that it’s unlawful to backdate bills beyond 12 months, but I’ve received no further response. I am a low earner and budget carefully every month to cover my costs. I cannot pay this bill.
SV, Bradford

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ScottishPower has form when it comes to pursuing householders for mysterious debts, either because it has confused their name with a stranger’s or because it has erroneously taken over their supply. In May I reported on readers who have been threatened with bailiffs for phantom debts of up to £12,000 because of its dysfunctional billing system.

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When I tackled ScottishPower, it blamed a wrongly recorded supply number that caused your account to migrate from Bulb, and claimed the ban on back billing did not apply as bills had been sent, albeit not in your name. But within hours of my contact, it apologised for the “frustration”, refunded the sum you’ve already paid and agreed to write off the outstanding demand, which has mysteriously risen to £1,700.

Bulb told me it was unaware your supply had been removed from its system because ScottishPower did not register its takeover correctly. Bizarrely, ScottishPower, on realising its error, had asked to return the account to Bulb, but then repeatedly blocked its own transfer.

This should have been the end of the story, but ScottishPower wasn’t done with you. Five days after its apology it asked that you set up a direct debit for quarterly payments. Back to the press office which explained, blithely, that in order to close an erroneously transferred account it has to open a new one, which can result in a new contract being created. It promised to close this and leave you alone.

The utilities regulator, Ofgem, has been monitoring the company since March because of its dismal record of complaints handling. It says: “We continue to regularly engage with ScottishPower and are ensuring it remains focused on improving its complaint-handling procedures following the disruption caused by Covid.”

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