Tony Hetherington is a crack researcher for the Financial Mail on Sunday who fights readers by uncovering the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those left without funds. Find out how to contact him below.
KM writes: I’ve been in a long battle with Scottish Power over an unfortunate and potentially fatal installation of a smart meter in the wrong place.
In October 2021, I tried to change the outlet in my apartment and received a severe electric shock despite the power being out.
I found that this was due to a smart meter being installed with the electrics left in what is called “reverse polarity” or “hot neutral in reverse”. I’m lucky I didn’t get killed.
Tony Hetherington says: You you live in an apartment building where the meters are in a common closet, and you abandoned the smart meter. The one that was installed was actually meant for your neighbor.
Chaos: Ombudsman service report falls short of expectations over failed Scottish Power meter installation
The night you got electrocuted, you called an electrician who immediately cut off the power, saying the wiring was dangerous and could start a fire. You were without electricity for 28 hours and while working from home, you lost your job for two days. You even had to fork out £120 to get the electricity back on.
But all Scottish Power offered was £75 and an apology telling you that if you want more, you’ll have to demand from her contractor. You then turned to the ombudsman’s service – and no matter how bad it was already, it got even worse.
The first thing everyone should know about the Ombudsman Service is that it is not a government agency. It is a privately owned business based in Warrington and paid for by companies that use it to handle complaints. For example, it manages POPLA, which handles driver appeals for parking tickets.
The Ombudsman Service asked Scottish Power to give you £100 instead of £75, saying it was a “goodwill gesture”. But where is the good intention of leaving you without money – and electrocuting you – because of the mistakes that Scottish Power is responsible for?
The Ombudsman’s report was horrendous. It described connecting an unauthorized meter to your apartment simply as a “lack of service.” Electrocuting you, unplugging you, paying you for work, and billing you for electricity all got the same label: “lack of maintenance.”
The ombudsman’s explanation was that “we are not a compensatory body”. It can only require its member companies to make payments in good faith, and these will not include anything to compensate for actual expenses or loss of employment. You were advised to sue the Scottish Power contractor, but the Ombudsman couldn’t even tell you exactly who it was. Some investigation then.
No wonder you filed an appeal and I put my questions to the Ombudsman Service. The reaction was, in your words, “overtly hostile.” You were told that you did not provide evidence that you say you were never asked for.
You have been asked to provide immediate proof that a Scottish Power engineer visited the apartments and connected the meter to the wrong address. And you were told to present a certificate stating that the meter details were incorrectly assigned to your apartment.
You were even told that you must provide an engineer’s report and a bill from the electrician you called, as well as proof of lost earnings. Both of these requirements, which the ombudsman’s office did not explain to me, are in complete contradiction to the ombudsman’s previous decision that you cannot claim compensation for such things. In general, all this has signs of an evil attempt to shut you up.
Even though you were only given seven days to present evidence that the Ombudsman should have found much earlier, you met the deadline. The Ombudsman Service now acknowledges that the decision that Scottish Power was not responsible for installing the meter was wrong.
He asked Scottish Power to apologize, correct the wrong meter charges and credit your account with a total of £370. This is intended to cover the £120 bill you paid, but not for any loss of income.
What is striking is the almost complete lack of investigative capacity on the part of the Ombudsman Service. He didn’t even contact the contractor who actually installed the meter. Both the Ombudsman and Scottish Power named two completely different installation companies as responsible before telling me they settled on one. I am now in touch with this contractor and will report the results.
The ombudsman office told me, “We only have a direct relationship with the energy supplier.” And Scottish Power said it had received an appeal verdict, adding: “Mr M has not accepted this yet, but we are ready to act as soon as he does.”
But what a shameful mess from start to finish.
Vueling left us in the dark about a refund
KG writes: My 73 year old mother and I had to fly with Vueling from Gatwick to Barcelona. We arrived at Gatwick but were told the flight had been cancelled.
We had to take the flight after 14 hours. We were told to keep our food and drink receipts as the expenses would be reimbursed but we have not received anything from Vueling since then and were told we would not receive anything.
This company needs to be stopped.
Turbulence: Vueling flight from Gatwick to Barcelona canceled
Tony Hetherington says: Vueling is a low cost airline owned by the Spanish company IAG, which also owns British Airways. Before contacting Vueling, I looked at their website, which has a helpful page called “Press Center”.
But when I clicked on the link, a message appeared: “Oh my god, this page seems to be on vacation! Looks like he found an irresistible offer and packed his bags.” Very funny – but very bad PR.
BA was much more helpful in putting me in touch with their Spanish subsidiary and…
Credit: www.thisismoney.co.uk /