For me, it’s a point of principle that I never let utility providers walk all over me, or take advantage. Worryingly often, they fail to issue refunds, forget issue proper bills, or even charge you for a service you don’t even have.
They might argue that, with so many customers, it’s impossible to administer everything perfectly. A cynic would suggest that, more often than not, they benefit from these errors, so where’s the incentive to address them?
Previously, I’ve had to battle with an electricity company who came to install a new meter, except the installation failed and I was left with the old meter. This didn’t stop them generating bills on the ghost meter however, which led to a nasty surprise and a drawn-out arguement over how much was owed.
Then there was the time I discovered our TV company had been charging us for months for a catchup/recording package that our hardware (the hardware they provided) couldn’t even deliver.
Don’t even get me started on insurance companies…
This morning’s fun was with the water company for our old house. Despite having left the property over a month ago, they’re still holding onto some credit that was on our account. So I call them (at 8am on a Saturday, otherwise I’ll be on hold for hours), and politely ask for it back. At first they tell me I should have requested the refund - and now I’ve done so they could send me a cheque.
No deal. I explain that I’m owed compensation as the refund is due within 10 working days of the final bill. I’m transferred to a supervisor, who says I didn’t get the refund because I cancelled my direct debit. I didn’t. “Oh” she says, “maybe we cancelled it on our end…”
After 10 minutes of back and forth, we come to the arrangement of a full refund, plus compensation for the delay. Another small victory for the consumer. The sad thing is, ‘victories’ like this are usually just a case of the consumer getting fair treatment. The company continues doing the same things, and in many cases people don’t notice and are worse off for it.
Still, I’ll continue to fight my corner, if only for the warm, fuzzy feeling I get inside after putting a big corporation to rights.