‘Scottish Power is charging my elderly father £7k a year for an unreliable smart meter’

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Dear Katie,

In November last year, my elderly parents, both 89, were to move into an assisted living facility together. But 10 days before the move, my mother had a stroke and we had to place her in a care home. I persuaded my father to go through with the move to the sheltered bungalow alone, as he is quite frail, with several health problems, including heart problems and prostate cancer.

Once he got in, I started setting up his utilities. I contacted Scottish Power and agreed to a monthly direct debit of £230, although this seemed vastly excessive for a tiny bungalow. It has been agreed, however, that the costs will be adjusted as soon as readings have been submitted via the smart meter for several months.

We have now found that the gas meter at the house is not working. Rather than lowering payments, Scottish Power has increased my father’s monthly payment from £280 to £575. This works out to £6,900 a year for gas, which is absurd.

My father spends a large part of the day in the care home where my mother now lives, and uses very little power in the bungalow.

I’ve told Scottish Power this monthly fee is ridiculous, but he won’t listen. It has acknowledged that the meter is faulty but will not do anything about it due to Covid.

My father currently pays all of my mother’s healthcare costs and he cannot afford these gas bills. I am disgusted by the way big companies like Scottish Power think they can treat vulnerable people. They should be ashamed of themselves.

– JL, via email

Dear reader,

I was shocked to learn how Scottish Power had treated your father, especially as energy suppliers are required to treat vulnerable customers like him with special care.

And what about refusing to replace the smart meter? Well, in my opinion, Covid is no longer a legitimate excuse for anything.

After my intervention, your father’s smart meter was quickly replaced. Scottish Power canceled the extortionate charge of £575 a month and instead retroactively applied £50 a month, reducing its bill to less than a tenth of what it was for the six-month period in question.

A spokesperson for Scottish Power said: “We are sorry for the problems the customer has experienced with their gas meter. We have now replaced it and will only charge minimal usage for the six month period he has been in the property.”

This has now been resolved to your satisfaction, but it should not have taken my involvement to get to this point. Scottish Power needs to do much better for its customers.

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