Co-operative Energy didn't bill us, but claims we owe it nearly £1,500

It took years’ worth of back payments from us, though the rule says we are liable only for the past 12 months

We have been trying to move our account from Co-operative Energy to Ovo Energy and found that, despite ­paying by monthly direct debit, we had accrued £1,468 of debt since 2012.

We were never informed that we were underpaying. When we pointed this out, Co-operative Energy said it did not have the systems in place for that.

We paid the bill as it was blocking our transfer. However, reading your column, I realise that under law we are only liable for the past 12 months if we were not billed.

Is there any way we can get a refund of what we paid? MG, Salisbury, Wiltshire

Frankly, Co-operative Energy hasn’t had the systems in place to issue ­coherent bills for nearly a year after botching the launch of a new computer system last summer.

By November it had become the most complained about energy ­company in the country after many of its 500,000 customers received inaccurate bills or no bills at all, and were prevented from fleeing to more switched-on providers.

You are the victim of a double incompetence: the fact the ­company failed to advise you that your monthly payments were falling short and that it was oblivious to the Energy UK “back-billing” rule means ­customers are only liable for the ­previous 12 months of charges if they have not received a bill for a year.

The Co-op recollected its ­obligations after The Observer waded in and refunded you £833 of your payment.

“As a direct debit review was not conducted on the account in the appropriate timescale, they will only be required to pay the outstanding amount from the last 12 months,” says a spokesperson.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.problems@observer.co.uk or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number.

Contributor

Anna Tims

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