Rubbish Power; Electric Company Fails Vulnerable Customers

7 weeks ago my partner, pup and I were made homeless by a random electrical fault which caused a fire to tear through our house.

The aftermath was surreal.

We walked through the rubble of what was once our home. The firefighters pointed to the probable plug sockets that started it. Either a lamp or a security camera, both purchased within the last 3 months, had destroyed our home.

We were in shock.

We had the clothes on our backs, the shoes on our feet and our dog, Koa; nothing else. 

Photo by Alex Simmonds

It was humbling to be in a situation where I felt no shame or hesitation in knowing that we needed help. As a recovering people-pleaser, it’s hard for me to ask for help or to set boundaries. But help came. And I welcomed it. Our family, friends and neighbours showed us what true community feels like. It was something I didn’t even know existed. We had offers of places to stay, bags of clothes and vegetables from people’s gardens. We had unexpected hugs and phone calls. We had an endless supply of goodness and generosity.

The support was incredible.

I knew instantly that this was one of those life lessons. If I could learn to accept and ask for help through all of this, I would become a better person and the people around me would have joy in being able to help someone in need. The experience was becoming something I had never expected. The support system was so strong. It was clear people wanted to help. 

It was such a blessing. And yet alongside it came a flood of frustration, vulnerability and helplessness.

Through all of the support from people, we also had to ask for help from Companies. We had to cancel bills, apply for new passports and identification, seek advice and ask for financial aid. All of it was new. It was time-consuming but it should have been straight forward. We should have been supported. Insurance, Customer Services, Suppliers. They were there to serve, right?

Sadly, our experience proved something else. Companies, for the most part, had no interest in helping. They did not show the compassion or kindness that we needed. They were just not capable of being human. 

Our experience with Scottish Power in particular, has been one of tremendous stress and frustration. So much so, that I felt compelled to share it. After all, the energy companies are becoming more and more powerful. They are taking more money from us every year and we have little say in the matter. But we can choose who we trust. Who we give our hard earned money to. So, let me tell you a little about our ordeal and Scottish Power, the company who have taken approximately £137 per month from us for a two bedroom house with triple glazing and very little electric use.

At 8am on Friday 1st of July, we had phone calls from our panicked neighbours. Our house was in flames. The fire brigade was on their way. Our neighbour was doing everything she could to get our dog, Koa, out of the house but she was really distressed. He wouldn’t come. We rushed home. It took just 8-12 minutes for our house to be swallowed up by flames.

And yet, after a deep breath, we felt overwhelmingly grateful. Because of the determination of our neighbour, Judy, Koa had been saved. A blessing we will never forget.

Photo by Alex Simmonds

We spent hours with neighbours and firemen, piecing together the few moments it took to destroy the whole interior of our house. Our living room looked like the inside of a fire place. There were remnants of rubble that were mis-coloured, misshapen and mostly indecipherable. Our home, as we knew it, was gone. 

By 2pm on the same day, we were on the phone to Scottish Power (SP). Shock and necessity kept us moving. We expected a relatively quick call but after a 45 minute wait, I was surprised by the service I was given. I informed SP of the fire and the fact that the firemen had turned off our gas and electric. The customer service operator seemed baffled at what I wanted so I explained that I was calling to notify them that we would need to “pause” our contract until the house was liveable. They were no longer supplying any gas or electric so we hoped they could just start up again once we were back in. Based on initial assessments, this could be up to 12 months. 

No one at SP knew how to handle this type of request so I was passed from team to team, Fair enough, it was an unusual situation..

After speaking with 4 people over a 45 minute period, I began to get frustrated. No one showed us any form of sympathy and one of the callers tried to retain the business by asking if I was “sure I wanted to stop everything.” I calmly explained that they weren’t providing anything to the house and we had no house left, so “yes, I was sure”. I explained that my call was really just a curtesy to let them know I wouldn’t be paying for anything in the immediate future. After a long call, many confused people and plenty of awful hold music, I was cut off. 
The next day I tried again. After speaking with 3 people, our situation was logged as a complaint because they didn’t know how else to handle it. 

About 9 days later, someone called my partner to say that they had logged our complaint. We were in credit at the time of the fire and wouldn’t receive any further bills. We were relieved. Another company dealt with and one less thing on our plate.

Just for extra precaution, I cancelled our Direct Debit to ensure money couldn’t be taken.

A couple days later, I received a re-directed letter to where we were staying. SP were informing me that my bill would be increasing because I had cancelled my DD which was the cheapest method of payment. Now I would need to pay more. I tried to call SP but after two attempts at a 45m wait and being cut off both times, I eventually opted for the “chat” option on the App. After 30 minutes, I got through to someone who introduced themselves and then disappeared, never responding to any of my messages for over a 26 minute period.  

Photo by Alex Simmonds

I decided to write a letter of complaint. I told SP I would not be paying higher premiums and our account was in credit so I’d like the £83.13 refunded please. I was polite but firm.

After a couple days, I had another re-directed letter. This one was a bill for our usage in July. As the house was boarded up since the first of July, this was laughable.

Photo by Alex Simmonds

I followed up with an email about my letter of complaint. I explained that if I didn’t have a response within the week, I would be telling my story. Not because I want sympathy but because I don’t want anyone to use SP. Am I just angry? Hell yes, I am. Am I acting out because my house burnt down? No, I’m not. I’m acting out because if I don’t, someone else might experience the incompetence of this company and they might not be lucky enough to have the amazing support structure we’ve had through family and friends.

Despite me being the one to call and email SP, my partner was the one who received an acknowledgement email to my complaint. That was two weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing more except another letter chasing payment for our July “usage”.

This whole experience has taught me that being human is where good things happen. Being honest, being vulnerable and asking for support is where some amazing things can happen. 

But if you are honest, vulnerable and ask for support from a company, things are falling short. The system is failing. 

I am speaking out because it’s unreasonable for companies to take advantage of people. It’s ridiculous that they are so beyond humane that they would try to retain business of a burnt down house to a couple who have lost everything but each other and their beloved dog. 

We were lucky. We are blessed. We are grateful for everyone who has been an incredible support to us. We are also grateful to the companies who were great. Plusnet will have our business for life. Wessex Water will too. A human at the end of the phone and any easy process goes a long way. 

For all those companies who couldn’t care less, you’ll never get my business again. 
Scottish Power, I didn’t want to write this but after weeks of being messed about, I mentioned in my complaint letter that I would write something publicly if I didn’t hear from you. I hate an ultimatum but I’m human. I was upset and I make mistakes. And I’m nothing without my word. I said I’d write something and so here it is, my word. A small article. It may be read by my Mum and my partner. Maybe a friend will read it and never go near SP.

That will be enough because I kept my word. I am human. I hope you can employ some of them sometime. I look forward to my next bill in the post. It will give us all some comic relief in these stressful times. 

Photo by Alex Simmonds

Published by feelosophywithalex

I’m a Holistic Wellness Coach helping young women to commit to their own wellbeing so that they can live a passionate and purposeful life that they love.

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