Together Energy bill for £3,700 is keeping my elderly mum awake at night

I’ve been trying to get the firm’s customer service department to sort it out, with no success

My elderly mother has received a bill for £3,756.45 from Together Energy. She was widowed two years ago and I arranged a one-year fixed tariff with monthly direct debits of £109. The contract finished at the end of July and the bill arrived immediately afterwards. I’ve been trying to query it since then and am having a terrible time getting anyone to respond to me. I’ve spoken to customer agents, sent emails to billing, accounts and customer services, but the only response I get is complaint reference numbers. The stress is keeping her awake at night – she’s convinced that her electricity will be cut off.
LB, London

Your mother is not the only elderly customer to be deprived of sleep by Together. VC of Stockton-on-Tees told me she had been trying in vain to help her 96-year-old neighbour, who was told he owed £1,700 because his direct debit did not cover his consumption. The debit was raised from £71.45 a month to £184.53 which, given that he lives alone, suggests enough energy use to power a small steel plant. Moreover, he was mysteriously being billed for two gas account numbers. Like LB, she says she has received no responses to her queries and was cut off each time she called. “I hate to see an old man worried and not sleeping because he is being ripped-off,” she said.

It took the prospect of a headline to prod Together’s dormant customer services into life. Scandalously, the company then admitted that both customers were actually owed money. In the case of LB’s mother, her direct debits were being credited to the joint account she had held with her late husband instead of into the new one. Once they’d been correctly applied, it was found she was £91 in credit. Together admits that her enormous bill should have been flagged before it reached her. It says it has set up a process to ensure that joint accounts are smoothly transferred following a death.

As for VC’s neighbour, his tariff was not updated on Together’s billing system. Nor was a gas meter exchange dating from 2019, so that he was being billed according to estimated readings from both old and new meters. He is in fact owed £792.45 in overpayments. Together says it has apologised to both customers and recalculated their bills. It’s hard to know where to start with such disgraceful service. Both frail customers had to endure crippling bills, rationed energy and weeks of stress because of Together’s indifference. The company, which has grown rapidly since it began in 2016, declares itself passionate about reducing fuel poverty, supporting vulnerable customers and providing helpful, human customer service.

It has failed on all three in these two cases and its low scores on review websites imply a wider problem. It boasts that it recruits agents from the poorest parts of Scotland and does not make them follow a script. The laudable idea is to improve its engagement with customers. Something does not appear to be working, and with rising gas prices likely to raise energy bills across the country, Together customers should keep a weather eye on their accounts.

Email your.problems@observer.co.uk. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions

Contributor

Anna Tims

The GuardianTramp

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