Customers of energy supplier Ovo were shocked and appalled when they received bills of up to £49,000 due to data errors that led to grossly overinflated energy projections for some households.
Julie Lines [not her real name] was told she owed £44,800 for two months’ supply of her one-bedroom apartment. “I had been asked to send pictures of my meters back in August because Ovo thought there was a problem,” she said. “I did and my account went from £600 in credit to £19,000 in debt. Although Ovo assured me it was a mistake, the debt rose to over £44,000 by September.
His account was found to be credited with £239 after The Guardian contacted Ovo.
The company admitted meter reading errors affected some customers, blaming problems with some accounts that were transferred to Ovo after it bought SSE’s retail division in 2020.
The company blamed an inconsistency between the opening and closing meter readings taken when Line’s SSE account was transferred to Ovo and paid it compensation.
Other customers told the Guardian that Ovo continued to send implausible bills despite receiving updated meter readings and admitting errors.
Jane Barclay’s projected quarterly energy consumption in her two-person household soared to £49,000 when she submitted meter readings. “I was assured my account would be suspended but I am now being sued for a bill of £34,015 for the three months to October,” she said. “What started as one of the irritations of modern life is now taking up many hours of my week and I’ve hit a brick wall trying to sort it out. I canceled my direct debit or else they would have just took the money, but I know they’re going to turn it over to a debt collector shortly.
Ovo has increased Alistair Strain’s monthly direct debits from £418 to £1,989 after calculating he used £23,330 of energy in July and August. His projected bill for 2023 was £29,000. “At least 12 separate customer service advisers asked me for details, promising that our account would be suspended and the problem would be fixed, but despite this £1,989 was debited from my bank account last month.”
Ovo admitted that meter reading errors affected some customers who transferred from SSE earlier this year. A spokesperson said: “We have processed millions of successful migrations to date, but are aware that a small handful of customers receive large screenings. To address this, our teams have implemented an additional check to verify large invoices to ensure we identify and correct them before they are sent to customers.
The company canceled Barclay and Strain’s invoices and offered compensation after being contacted by the Guardian. He has since refunded Strain’s direct debit payment, but he says his balance still shows a debt of £21,000 and Barclay has yet to receive a proper invoice.
In 2020 Ovo was ordered to pay £8.9 million in reparations after energy regulator Ofgem discovered it had wrongly charged customers over five years.
Ofgem did not confirm whether it was aware of the latest billing issues when the Guardian alerted it to the shock bills. “Suppliers also have a duty to ensure customers receive the correct final amount on their invoice,” a spokesperson said. “We will assess this information shared with us, and where action is needed, we will ensure that suppliers are doing what is required of them to protect consumers in these very difficult times.”