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Pre-Christmas Energy Bills Surprise 185,000 Households

By Laura Elahi on January 4, 2011

One of Britain’s leading energy firms, npower, has upset thousands of customers after it surprised them with rather inappropriate Christmas presents: early gas and electricity bills.

As many as 185,000 households are thought to have been issued with energy bills one month ahead of schedule, as npower revises its meter-reading system.

Eighty-year-old Sally Wisniewski is one such customer to have received an early bill, having been instructed to make a payment on December 5th instead of her usual billing date of January 5th.

Highlighting the sort of problems that could be caused by the early billing, Mrs Wisniewski’s son, Peter, said: “The worst thing was that there was nothing to explain what they were doing or why they were doing it. No note of any sort. Fortunately I was there to sort things out for my mother on the phone and get an explanation. But if she’d been on her own, I don’t know what she would have done. It could have worried her to death.”

The move by npower could not have hit at a worse time, with many families already struggling with finances in the run-up to Christmas.

A spokesperson for npower attempted to explain what had happened by stating: “We have been aligning our meter reading schedule with our billing dates to reduce the number of estimated bills, but the changes we made to our billing system unfortunately meant that some of our customers were incorrectly sent a ‘shorter’ bill than usual.”

The spokesperson continued: “We are aware of the situation and have written to any affected customers this week apologising for our error and advising them of the various courses of action available to them. These include accepting the ‘short’ bill on this occasion and confirming to the customer when their next bill will be issued, or the customer can contact us with a meter reading to bring their account up to date and they will then be issued with a revised bill immediately.”

With the cost of gas central heating already set to rise in January, npower customers are unlikely to be impressed by the energy provider’s latest move.