Ovo Energy customers hit with 'horror' bills of up to £116k

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Ovo energy and a person using a phoneImage source, Getty Images

Ovo Energy customers have been hit with bills of up to £116,000 for a month’s energy, the BBC has found.

Customers have claimed their energy usage has been miscalculated after transferring over to the energy giant or having a smart meter installed.

Some of their complaints have been upheld by the energy ombudsman yet they are still waiting for their account debt to be recalculated.

“We are very sorry for shortfalls in service,” said an Ovo spokesperson.

“Our teams have looked into the cases shared with us by the BBC with urgency, and in many cases provided a resolution.”

Emma Rosser, from Portsmouth, moved to Ovo Energy on 9 January and since then she has received bills ranging from £500 to £116,000 for a month’s usage.

She had transferred from Boost where she was paying £220 per month for electricity and gas.

Emma Rosser

“They kept saying they’ll look into it and not getting back to me,” said Ms Rosser.

“I’ve been to the ombudsman and they’ve told Ovo to correct my bill and compensate me.”

The debt on Ms Rosser’s account has since been removed but she said she was still receiving incorrect bills.

Emma's balance showed £116,000 of debt online

Image source, Emma Rosser

“I spent hours several times a week on the phone in huge queues, often being disconnected after 40 to 60 minutes on hold,” Ms Rosser said.

“The web chat was useless, often not available, and when it was I’d get to second or first, then it would crash and I’d have to start over again.”

Ms Rosser is a parent-carer to three disabled children and has described the debt as “an impossible situation”.

She said: “It is seriously affecting my mental and physical health.”

Ms Rosser is one of many people who have been given incorrect bills and then faced a fight to have them corrected, the BBC has found.

Katie Nicholls, who lives in a two-bed flat in Bristol, was billed more than £2,000 for a month’s electricity in December 2021.

Her average monthly bill is usually about £50.

Katie Nicholls outside her flat in Bristol

She had just had a smart meter installed by Ovo but it was registered against the wrong flat.

The company came back to reinstall the meter but the debt remained on her account.

“It’s been nearly two years since they put this horror debt on my account,” Ms Nicholls said.

“Since then they have refused to return my calls or action a resolution, even after the ombudsman ruled they should resolve the matter.”

Ms Nicholls is a single parent and she described the situation as a “constant source of stress and frustration”.

“I’m terrified debt collectors will start asking for repayments or that it will affect my credit rating, or even my ability to sell my flat,” she said.

“I’ve been hit hard by the cost of living crisis and the threat of this erroneous debt hanging over me is horrendous.”

Cost of living: Tackling it together

How can I save money on my energy bill?

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An Ofgem spokesperson said their market compliance review discovered weaknesses in Ovo’s customer services, which the regulator is liaising with the company on already.

“There’s a cost-of-living crisis and energy suppliers are always expected to treat customers fairly, repaying any overcharged amounts,” they said.

Last week, the regulator ordered Ovo and Good Energy to refund a total of £4m to customers after it was found they had overcharged households.

Brian and Ann Morris, a couple aged in their 80s, became Ovo customers in August 2022, after the company took over from SSE.

They went on holiday for two months in January, so the house was empty, but when they came back they were given a bill for £5,500.

Brain and Ann Morris, a couple in their 80s

They usually pay about £200 per month in bills for their house in Port Talbot.

“We are absolutely worried sick about owing this money and are struggling to sleep at night,” Mr Morris said.

“We have been told to sort things out online which is not possible for us.”

The couple have raised a complaint about the debt.

Kerry Akins, from Wolverhampton, is a single-parent who transferred to Ovo Energy in January, when the company took over SSE.

Kerry Akins

Image source, Kerry Akins

She was paying about £230 per month for gas and electricity on a direct debit scheme.

On her first Ovo bill, they said she had used £1,500 of energy in February, according to smart meter readings.

“The thought of owing that kind of money when you don’t is stopping my every day life. I’m worried I’m going to be cut off or have bailiffs at my door,” said Ms Akins.

“I am already struggling with my mental health as it is and this just escalates my condition.”

Ms Akins has managed to leave Ovo and transfer to Octopus but she fears she will be chased for the debt.

“I have cancelled my direct debit as I’m not feeding a debt they have created,” she added.

A smart meter

Image source, Getty Images

An energy ombudsman spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to hear that this has been a distressing time for these consumers.

“The cases the BBC has highlighted suggest that some Ovo consumers are being overcharged for the amount of energy they’re using.

“It’s important that energy suppliers charge consumers accurately, particularly at the moment when prices are so high.

“If consumers are unhappy with the service they have received, we always suggest that they should raise this with their energy supplier in the first instance, who’ll aim to find a resolution.

“If consumers are unable to reach a satisfactory solution, and the complaint is open for longer than eight weeks, then they should contact us.”

A spokesperson for Ovo said: “We’re very sorry to these five customers for the shortfalls in service.

“Their experience does not reflect our focus to provide a high standard of customer service for all our customers.

“Our teams are here to help customers who are worried and provide them with the support and advice they need.”

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