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X-Ray investigates Utility Warehouse

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:15 UK time, Monday, 8 March 2010

This week X-Ray reports on the experiences of two families who have run into problems after switching their energy supplier to sign up with the same company - the Utility Warehouse.


The company, which supplies gas, electricity, phone and broadband and puts it all on one monthly bill, rewards its customers with discounted energy bills every time they recruit a friend or family member.




Robert and Kella Pitts from Llanharry, Rhondda Cynon Taff, switched to the Utility Warehouse in the summer of 2008.


"Our friends had recommended them and claimed they would be cheaper, we just thought it's worth looking at," explained Kella Pitts.


Everything went smoothly to begin with, but in October last year the Pitts received a gas bill for almost £3,000.

 'Massive shock'

The Pitts say they didn't read their paper bills closely, but they regularly checked their account online. They assumed that 'telephone' and 'energy' charges covered gas, electricity and phone calls.

"It was a massive shock," said Kella.

"A bill for £3,000 was four times what we'd ever used since we've lived in the house," explained Robert. "And what compounded the matter as well, during the previous 18 months we'd had double glazing and loft insulation fitted."

Convinced that their bill was too high, the Pitts rang Utility Warehouse, who admitted that there had been a mistake.

First the firm told Robert they hadn't charged for gas up to that point because their records showed the property had a prepayment meter.  But then they discovered their records were wrong - that meter had been removed five years earlier.
The company also said that the Pitts' bill had been calculated using imperial units - when in fact their gas old meter had been replaced with a metric one.

Utility Warehouse sent out a new gas bill for the year - this time for £1,500. But the Pitts felt this also was too high.

 "We just didn't believe that we could have used that amount purely on gas when our bill's always £700 a year," said Kella.

After their experiences the Pitts tried to leave the Utility Warehouse but say they were told they must stay put until their bill is resolved.

'The last thing I needed'

Meanwhile in Port Talbot, Nicola Leyshon and her husband Daniel switched to the
Utility Warehouse after being tempted by the company's promises of one simple monthly bill. But they, too, ran into problems.

Despite sending off regular meter readings, Nicola's bills showed that she was hardly using any gas at all. She queried it with Utility Warehouse, who reassured her and even gave her a £508 refund.

Then in November she received a gas bill for over £1,000.

"I was very shocked," said Nicola. "I really didn't expect it just before Christmas. It was the last thing I needed." 

Unable to pay the bill, Nicola phoned Utility Warehouse to try to arrange a repayment plan - but then received another invoice to say that the £1,000 debt would come out of her bank account by direct debit on the agreed date.

As she struggled to find the extra money over the Christmas period, Nicola's landline and broadband were disconnected.

"I've actually had to have time off work because of the stress that it's caused," she said.

Nicola's gas and electricity bills have now risen to more than £1,500 - and Utility Warehouse has applied for a court order to enter the property to install a prepayment meter.


When X-Ray approached the Utility Warehouse, the company pointed out that it has come top for customer satisfaction in several recent surveys. 

However, on these two occasions, it admitted it had made mistakes. Although the firm added that both the Pitts and Nicola Leyshon had made errors too. The company insisted because both customers have used the energy, they are liable to pay the bills.

In the case of the Pitts, the firm says it did receive opening meter readings from the Pitts.  But when a meter reader flagged up a potential problem with the type of meter, the company says the Pitts failed to supply it with meter readings and other information - although the Pitts deny this.

Utility Warehouse accepts that it didn't charge the Pitts for their gas for a whole year - but it says that all customers must check the details on their paper bills, because the online version just provides a summary.

As a gesture of goodwill, Utility Warehouse has now reduced the Pitts bill by £200, refunded all charges for non-payment and offered an interest free repayment plan - and Robert and Kella are now free to move to another supplier if they want.

In the case of Nicola Leyson, Utility Warehouse says it has no record of an opening meter reading.  When it did get one a few months later, the company failed to pass it onto the billing department, and that's why a large credit built up on the gas account.  The company also admits it failed to investigate properly when the couple questioned this credit.

Utility Warehouse has apologised for these errors, which led to the £1,000 bill.  But because energy companies are allowed to 'back-bill' for 12 months, they point out that the Leyshons have received four months of free gas.

All court action against the Leyshons has now been stopped and Utility Warehouse is offering them an interest free repayment plan.  And to apologise for their mistakes the company is going to reduce the bill by £300.

Find out how you can switch your energy supplier, and what you should take into account if you do.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why do we bother having "competition" in the energy market? The bill you pay has to cover the costs all the admin and engineering staff of each company and so it would be cheaper if there was only one company. The "big" company could then negotiate better supply deals and always offer the lowest prices. It stands to reason that there is "price fixing" going on in all industries as even "squeeky clean" companies such as Virgin and British Airways eventually get found out. Lets get smart and suggest all energy users "switch" to just one of 2 companies and put the rest out of business. Thats competition.

  • Comment number 3.

    Government should take over energy, both electricity and gas; partly subsidised. So there should not be competitions with poor services. Increase in price should be discussed at the house of parliament. Green energy can still be private

  • Comment number 4.

    I would like to say that I am a customer and work as an independent distributor with the utility warehouse and have been for nearly 2 years, I understand that not every body will be happy and mistakes happen, I have many customers who are happy with the services that we provide.
    I personally have halfed my bills when I switched from well known suppliers from the telecoms industry and energy suppliers.

    [Personal details removed by Moderator]


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