Shocked by a home electricity bill estimate of £40,000

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We received a statement from our electricity provider, OVO, citing a projected annual bill of £40,052.43. We live in a three-bedroom house with storage heaters and had expected our bills to total around £4,000. I called to query this and spoke to a customer service agent who at first couldn’t see the problem, then worked out a sum that was more reasonable. A few days later, we were informed that the annual estimate was now £52,235.64. I called again and spoke to an agent who couldn’t understand my concern since it was an estimate, not a bill. I logged a complaint via the website and was asked to send a photo of the estimate. I then received a message telling me that no further action would be taken.

EH, Nethy Bridge, Scotland

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The terrifying figure is indeed an estimate, not a bill, but that’s hardly reassuring when neither the computer nor customer service agents recognise there’s a problem. As it happens, you are on the priority register, since your 82-year-old partner has serious health problems, and it’s depressing that OVO left you in anxious limbo for nearly a month. It turns out that you have two electricity meters, one to record off-peak energy consumption and the other normal use. You had, at some point, transposed the readings which, looking at photos of your meters, is an easy mistake to make. OVO says it asked you to provide new readings, since your consumption was higher than expected, and the error was rectified when these were received, but it was “too late” to recall the successive emails with the hair-raising estimates. Why this wasn’t explained to you when you called customer services and made your complaint is anyone’s guess. You’ve now been given an email address where you can send photos of your meters to ensure the readings are the right way round.

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