E.ON thinks my sister owes it £1,000 – but she uses a prepayment meter

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My sister-in-law has had a prepayment electricity meter for more than 20 years. Late last year, her supplier, E.ON, started sending letters claiming she was more than £1,000 in debt. She spent hours on the phone arguing that was impossible, until a call-centre agent worked out that when a new meter was installed in 2018, the serial number had been incorrectly recorded by the engineer. As a result, her payment top-ups were not registering. The agent advised her to top up the meter with £1 on three consecutive days to “reset” it and remove the debt. She also sent £25 in compensation. But the debt letters still rained down, culminating in a demand that she pay £5 per week to pay off a debt that it now put at £1,103. We remonstrated with E.ON, which again admitted the error, but since then we’ve heard nothing.
AR, Cumbria

Mistakes happen, but outrageously in this case, E.ON identified the error, then failed to do anything about it. There’s no certainty that it ever would have intervened if I hadn’t given it a prod. It then discovered that it had since siphoned off more than £70 from your sister-in-law’s prepayments to pay off the phantom debt. It has now sent her a new meter key to prevent further deductions. It offered her £150 in compensation, including that misappropriated £70. Your sister-in-law sensibly refused this munificence, which was then raised to £250.

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E.ON said: “We were given an incorrect reference number when the meter was originally installed, which meant the payments were not showing up on the right account. We are sorry for the confusion and for the inconvenience this has caused. We are currently working through all our systems to make sure the money paid is correctly attributed to the account.”

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