Monday 13 December 2010

Scottish Power

If you asked me to recommend a gas or electricity provider Scottish Power would be the one I would tell you to keep well clear of. The reason for this guidance is from my personal experience, gained as one of their obviously "less than valued" Scottish Power customers.
Just so there is no confusion let me clarify my advice - DO NOT GO ANYWHERE NEAR SCOTTISH POWER - I repeat - DO NOT GO ANYWHERE NEAR SCOTTISH POWER. Just in case you are deaf - I repeat - DO NOT GO ANYWHERE NEAR SCOTTISH POWER.
So let the Scottish Power saga, also known as "The Big Dummies Guide to Getting it Wrong" begin.

From this point on - SP is my shorthand for Scottish Power.

First let me give you a feel for the SP (Silly People) "customer service staff". If you ever have to deal with them, then be afraid - be very afraid. They know and understand absolutely nothing about their own systems. They will hazard a guess at what is going wrong - but more pointedly - they will seemingly also hazard a guess at how to put it right. If you take their advice, you will also need to take, a large spoonful of salt with it. No, in all fairness and on further reflection - and in consideration of the weather - take two very large spoonfuls of salt!

A conversation with the SP (Simply Pointless) customer service team is always characterised by a long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" whilst you wait. Then, you have to explain again in fine detail the nature of your problem. Every time you phone SP you will have to explain again and again - without exception. I thought at the time that I might make a recording - it would after all save me a great deal of time and effort by playing it back each time I call SP.

Oh! How right can you be!

But I digress....

Just a year or two after the turn of the millennium I foolishly transferred my allegiance for Gas and Electricity provision to Scottish Power. Things went along for a time without any problems manifesting themselves. My direct debit payments went from my account without any attention from me, other than once a year - making up any slippage in what I had paid for - against what I had actually used. I suppose I was easily lulled into a false sense of security.

Looking back in the 20 - 20 vision provided by hindsight, I shudder to think that I actually put my trust is Scottish Power. Now, things have changed somewhat, in fact I would not pee on them if they spontaneously combusted. This could happen at any moment as I expect their trousers are smouldering.

But I digress....

Several years later the situation with SP (South Park) then took a change for the worse. It seems that butter fingered Scottish Power had somehow "lost" my account. I was in the situation where I was being provided with Gas and Electricity and the direct debit payments in to my old SP (Scottish Phobia) account had not been taken from my bank account.

However, puzzlingly Scottish Power were still sending demands for payment to my home address presumably using the old account address details. When I contacted them and after a long wait on the phone plus a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" I asked for information about the old account. I was told that they were unable to provide the requested information due to the restrictions of the "Data Protection Act". That is I presume the SP (Security Protocol) customer service equivalent of "piss off I can't be arsed" voiced in a Rab C Nesbitt lilt.

I was in the situation where I was expected by SP (Silly Pratt's) to "open up" a whole new account with SP (Sloppy Power) Previously I had just a single "account number" and I had paid a single amount into that account. It was then split to pay the different charges for the Gas and Electricity I had used.

My new SP (Silly Plonker) account now had a different account number for the Gas and a different account number for the Electricity. So I would now need to set up two different mandates - where previously I had only needed the one. But I rather naively believed that the problems were now sorted.

Oh! How wrong can you be.

Then I thought to myself - what meter readings are SP (Scottish Pain) going to use to calculate or estimate my gas and electrical consumption. I contacted Scottish - waste of space - Power and after a long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" SP (Stupid Power) said they were unable to provide the requested information via their "customer service operative" due to the restrictions of the "Data Protection Act". This is to provide to me the information they hold about my account!

But, I was assured that I would be billed for the correct consumption. So I said "OK, so what is the starting reading for the Gas"? The SP (Slumber Party) troll said they were unable to provide the requested information due to the restrictions of the "Data Protection Act". Yes, its true - they would not supply me with the starting meter readings for the charges they would otherwise estimate and levy against my account!

So more in hope than expectation I asked about the starting reading for the Electricity. Well gosh and golly! The operative from hell said "we are unable to provide the information due to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act". I said "I am expected to pay bills for gas and electricity that is being supplied without any way of being able to check the figures?" No help was forthcoming only to remind me of the Data Protection Act from the disinterested troll.

Doing a quick mental calculation, I estimated what my consumption and costs would be and went on line with my bank. I set up two monthly standing orders (no direct debit as I wanted to be in control of what left my account) by way of payment. I put in the SP (Simply Pointless) account payment number, the amount I wanted to pay and included my Gas account number. Same details on the second standing order, only this time I included my electricity account number.

A few days later I rang SP (Super Pooper) - customer service after a long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" to check the payments had been transferred. I almost fell to my knees to hear the customer service agent confirm the transactions. It's working, I suppose I was once more lulled into a false sense of security.

OK, I know, I know.... I'm obviously easily duped.

I decided that rather than ring every month to check that the payments had gone through. I would use the SP on-line web based service to manage my bills. Going on-line was easy - or so I thought. Click a few buttons and fill in a few fields. I now have my electricity account registered. Feeling somewhat smug, I get the electricity meter readings and input them into the system.... I look and see that the standing order payment is on the system. Easy peasy, even for an old duffer like me! Next, I go through the registration process again - this time for the Gas.... click a few buttons - fill in a few fields. It looks to good to be true....

Oh! How right can you be!

I logged off, had my tea and went to get the gas meter reading. Returning to SP's online site, I find that my electricity account is on line - but the gas account is off line. I thought "I was right, it is too good to be true!".

Returning once more to SP (Suppressive Person) customer service, after a usual long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" I report the problem with the gas account.

Now reader, cast your memory back to the start of the saga, you may remember I told you about the SP (Steam Powered) customer service agents.
I wrote "First let me characterise the SP (Silly People) customer service staff". If you have to deal with them be afraid - be very afraid - they knew absolutely nothing about their own systems. They will hazard a guess at what is going wrong - but more pointedly - they will seemingly hazard a guess at how to put it right."
SP once more lived up to all my expectations! I was told that it sometimes takes several days for the second account to link to the first account! Looking back, I suppose I was easily lulled into a false sense of security - yet again. OK, I admit it, I am a slow learner. I take people on face value or in SP's case on voice value.

Oh! How, wrong can you be!

A few days later I log on again expecting nothing, and I wasn't to be disappointed. Nada! Zilch! Nothing of the gas account to be found. Mustering all my enthusiasm - I ring SP (Slow Play) customer service troll again. After the expected long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" This time I am told by the troll- "you have separate gas and electricity accounts so it won't work. To use our on-line systems you need a dual account." - What's that then I ask - expecting to be told that they were unable to provide the requested information due to the restrictions of the "Data Protection Act". I was taken by surprise when the troll offered to link the accounts together, however, no information about the "dual account" was given. - But, I was assured that it would only take a few days. There's a surprise.

A letter arrives in the post from SP (Soil Pipe) with the new third account number!

Another month has been and gone - more in trepidation than expectation - I log in again. But what's this! - whoopeeee - I can see the gas and the electricity account's. I check the payment history the original payments made can be seen. However, as it's a new month, I expected a second standing order payment to be seen in each account. Nada! Zilch!

Yes, you have already guessed - it's back to SP (Small Profile) customer service agents. I ring my long standing friends in "customer disservice" A after a long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" I ask if the payments have been received. They confirm that no payment has come from my bank. I believed, just like a sucker I believed them. Now I can't believe it, but I did - I believed them.

There is one born every day - and I am that sucker!

Feeling a bit peeved, about SP and those very rich bankers I help to support - I go on-line to my bank and look at my account. Shock, horror, revelation I see that two payments to SP had been made almost two weeks before. I call my friends at SP "customer annoyers" again. After a long but expected wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" The agent from planet Zarg says - "it could be in out lost payment account". What both of them I ask? Zarg troll says "I will check for you, but it will take a few days". There's a surprise.

A few days later - whilst finding it difficult to contain my complete indifference - I contact SP (Salt Pill) again - After the usual - mind numbing - long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" I talk to the agent from Zarg again. Zarg troll confirms that they had found the payments - and they had now been credited into my account. I log onto SP on-line and the payments are there. I put in the meter readings and log off.

To shorten the saga - I can confirm that the following month the payments were lost again - and after my usual long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" I was able to draw it to their attention again.

I can confirm that the very next month, the payments were lost once again - and after my usual long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" I was able to draw it to their attention, yet again. This went on for the next three months. During this time I lost the will to live - contemplating suicide seemed the easier option. Then I sought salvation with EDF.

So I set about transferring my allegiance to EDF. I spoke to them on the phone and in a few days things went into process. I gave them the meter readings for the gas and the electricity. Two weeks later, the electricity is transferred. However, the gas took a few weeks longer! Oh yes, it was somewhat longer but just as frustrating as ever.

In between, my friends at SP sent me an estimated bill with the wrong meter readings for the final reading of the gas meter. After my - suicide inducing - long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" I was able to draw it to their attention. I was told, by the troll "you could just pay the bill and then you can claim the difference back later". I told them that the meter readings they were using were wrong, I could provide the correct readings and that I did not arrive on the last banana boat. They were not interested in obtaining the correct meter readings. There was no way that SP (Sucker Punch) were going to get my money. Money that they were not entitled to. Oh! How wrong can you be!

But I digress.

In a very pompous Billy Connolly voice "Transco have provided the meter readings for us" says the SP troll. So I said, "then Transco have given you the wrong readings". "No, I can see it in the Transco database" the SP customer service troll said. I assured the troll that the figures must be wrong. I asked "what figure is it in the database anyway?" I was told by the troll that SP (Suicide Plan) were unable to provide the information due to the restrictions of the "Data Protection Act". Suicide was looking to be the much better option.

Time for the big guns - I am annoyed now and when I am - pissed off - stand well clear - the fuse is lit and I am motivated! Spitting and venting my spleen is a rare occurrence. It's carefully stored in readiness for specialists in "abject incompetence" and I have found that "the best of the best" is alive and well and employed by Scottish Power. The trolls at SP could do a masterclass in incompetence. Next time you contact SP customer service - remember they are as Tina Turner would sing "simply the best".

So I do a bit of digging around on the net. I come up with a few SP (Special Phone) numbers for various SP (Slow Poke) people. I ring one of the SP (Spare Parts) special numbers and - no mental music later - I get the "head troll meister" in person. I explain what the problem is and say that the figures in the Transco database must be wrong - "how do you know that asks the head troll meister?" Because your agent troll from the planet Zarg can see them and I can only assume the figure is wrong A) from your bill and B) the figure is much greater than the meter reading at the moment. "Well we can't actually see the Transco database" says head troll meister! "So your customer service person lied to me then" I said. "The customer services agent could not have lied to you", says the troll meister "because they can't see the database". My heart sank. "Your problem is that EDF must have submitted the wrong figures to Transco", says the head troll meister
Note to self, never argue with a SP troll, they will just drag you down to their level and beat you with years and years of experience.

Hello EDF? it's about the figures I provided you with for the gas and electric - SP (Spotty Power) say your must have sent the wrong figures to Transco. I ask EDF person "what figures did you send?" Ms EDF nice person with a soft voice says XXXXX - which just happens to match with the figures I gave them in the first place. With no comment about the "Data Protection Act" either. "OK", she says "I will raise a dispute query with Transco - don't worry about it will soon be sorted".

The next day - a letter arrives from SP (Simply Pathetic) bailiff section - threatening court action - court costs - their legal costs. Almost a complete guide on hanging - drawing and quartering, you know, the sort of heart warming communication, to liven up the life of an old age pensioner. The ones who might genuinely go and commit suicide as the easy option - it has after all happened!

Feeling charitable - I ring up the SP (Stazi Police) bailiff troll and explain in fine detail how I have filed their letter, by punching a hole in the top left hand corner and I have hung it on the back of the toilet door. (in all truth I did not actually say toilet door - I think I used the same descriptive expletive as I did for the Scottish Power - customer services section, involving - "a revolving shit house door" - if memory serves me correct.)

A few days later - another bill from SP (Survival Project) with the correct figures (what happened to the Data Protection Act?) - no apology - no offer of recompense for all the bother they have caused me. Oh! and it was accompanied in the same postal delivery by another letter from the head bailiff troll meister. - Obviously he's a slow learner as well. Well now I can wave Scottish Power farewell - pay the bill and that's them out of my life forever - whatever will I do with all the spare time?

Oh! How wrong can you be!
But I digress.

After a long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" I get to give my debit card details to the SP (Sock Puppet) customer service troll. Whoops says SP troll our systems have just crashed. "In flames I hope" I whisper under my breath. Cheery SP troll says "I will do the transfer for you later". "Will you confirm that in writing?" I say. She assures me she will. But dear reader confirmation was there non!

After the family celebrations (based on our escape from SP) had died down to a bun fight. I went back to my dull dreary life as Mr nice Yorkshire man - walking the dog - mowing the lawn. Just like the words from a Beatles song "yesterday -all my troubles seemed so far away".

Oh! How wrong can you be!!

Mrs nice Yorkshire woman - rings me at the salt mine. Disturbing me from my euphoria of being free of Scottish Power. "Oi! Yorkie" she says. "Did you know that the troll at Scottish Power has taken the final payment from our household account?" - "Yes, she said she would" says me. "Did she also say she would take it twice!!!" says Mrs nice Yorkshire woman. "For fcuk sake" says I. After the traditional long wait on the phone and a complete rendition of "The best of the Eagles" I speak with an even higher troll meister. I explain the problem and she says "we will refund the over payment". "Will you transfer it directly into my account?" I enquire. "No" she says, "we don't have the facility to do that". I say "every little shop on the high street can do direct transfers back into my account". "Sorry" says the troll.

So here I am - like those famous last words - awaiting a cheque in the post. Is this the end of the saga.... I don't think so - as our household account has now gone into the red and is overdrawn. I think a trip to the small claims court is in order to recoup our expected overdraft charges. Plus it will give me something to do, as I am on some sort of SP (Scottish Punter) withdrawal symptoms.

Watch this space.A few numbers to use if you ever want to complain to Scottish Power.

0800 0275050 Customer services
0800 400200 Switchboard - ask for Customer services

Charged the local rate.
0845 0845 Customer services - complaints.
01925 422572 Customer services - complaints.
0141 5645240 Customer services - complaints.

Yes, they have three numbers for complaints about their customer service!!!!!!
Chief Executive supplied customer services-complaints.
0141 5683251

After consulting mi'learned friends about the way that SP conduct their business - the learned friends tell me of a similar case to mine.

A woman who took a case for harassment against British Gas has won a settlement from the company. A legal expert said that the case should act as a warning to all firms to make sure their debt collection and complaint handling operations communicate.

Lisa Ferguson took the energy giant to court over a string of threatening letters she received demanding payment of gas bills that she was not responsible for. Ferguson had switched suppliers but continued to receive demands and threats from British Gas for eight months.

Ferguson repeatedly wrote to the company and telephoned it to inform it that she had switched suppliers. She wrote to the company's chairman but received no reply and alerted the energy watchdog to her plight.

Ferguson took a case claiming that British Gas's behaviour was unlawful under the Protection from Harassment Act, which created a civil and a criminal offence of harassment.

That law says: "A person must not pursue a course of conduct -
    (a) which amounts to harassment of another, and
    (b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other."

British Gas said that the behaviour was not serious enough to amount to harassment and that as a company, rather than an individual, it could not be caught by the legislation. It argued that Ferguson would have to identify an individual directing the activity in order for harassment to be demonstrated.

British Gas asked the the Court of Appeal to throw the case out before it reached a full hearing because it had no basis. The Court refused and said there was a case to answer. British Gas has now settled the case with Ferguson, but would not reveal how much it has paid her.

A litigation expert at Pinsent Masons, said that the case showed that companies should pay close attention to the way they collect debts. "It was important in this case that the customer had told British Gas so many times that the debt was disputed," said Chris Breen, a litigation specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. "Companies chasing debts need to be aware that the way they pursue debts could be scrutinised and subject to claims under the Act. They need to ensure that their complaints handling procedure is effective and linked up and when they do chase debts that they don't do it in an overly aggressive and threatening way."
Lord Justice Jacob, giving the ruling of the Court, said that British Gas's arguments about why its behaviour stopped short of harassment held no water. "British Gas sought to downgrade the behaviour by saying that Ms Ferguson knew the claims and threats were unjustified." he said in the ruling. "That is absurd: a victim of harassment will almost always know that it is unjustified. The Act is there to protect people against unjustified harassment. Indeed if the impugned conduct is justified it is unlikely to amount to harassment at all."

The company also tried to argue that because automated systems created the correspondence it did not amount to harassment.

Lord Justice Jacob, "British Gas also made the point that the correspondence was computer generated and so, for some reason which I do not really follow, Ms Ferguson should not have taken it as seriously as if it had come from an individual." he said in the ruling. "But real people are responsible for programming and entering material into the computer. It is British Gas's system which, at the very least, allowed the impugned conduct to happen. No amount of writing and telephoning had stopped the system so far – at times it must have seemed like a monster machine out of control moving relentlessly forward – a million miles from the 'world class level of service' (letter of 9th January) which British Gas says it aims to offer."
Lord Justice Jacob rejected British Gas's claims that in order to win a harassment case a person would need to demonstrate that the company had "actual knowledge" that its behaviour was harassment. "As at present it seems to me that all the Act requires of the victim is to identify the course of conduct and what passed between the victim and the alleged harasser. The court is then notionally to put knowledge of that and of any other relevant information into the mind of this reasonable person. The court then decides whether that person would consider that the course of conduct amounts to harassment," he said.
Breen said that the ruling should leave companies in no doubt about their potential culpability. "It is clear from this case that a corporation, large or small, can be responsible for harassment and can't rely on the argument that there is no 'controlling mind' in the company and that the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing." he said. Breen also said that "companies may find that they face action on similar grounds under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. Those have prohibitions against aggressive commercial practices, so it is not inconceivable that companies will find that rather than someone pursuing a court case under the Act at their own expense they just complain under the Regulations to Trading Standards."

Lord Justice Jacob praised Ferguson for taking a stand against the company at great personal financial risk. "It is one of the glories of this country that every now and then one of its citizens is prepared to take a stand against the big battalions of government or industry. Such a person is Lisa Ferguson," he said. "Because she funds the claim out of her personal resources, she does so at considerable risk: were she ultimately to lose she would probably have to pay British Gas's considerable costs." He told British Gas to pay its own costs of £20,368.75 and Ferguson's costs of £10,575.
More on this story later.... 

PS. I like listening to the Eagles - Hotel California - but my favourite is still Desperado.



  1. i understand your article. you are the great.

  2. This article has more depth and detail than anything else I have read on the Internet. It also contains telephone numbers for making a complaint against Scottish Power (and they're actually Freephone numbers, which makes a change).

    At the present time, I nervously await my final bill from SP (fully expecting another botch-up). When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, they don't have genuine respect for their customers.

    Aye, this is a good article. My sincere thanks.

  3. Thanks for you comments to nathan and Erskine, I shall do a follow up to this one when the final account has been settled.


  4. Blimey Mike,

    Makes my diatribe re Vodafone look paltry, at least I could get through for free by dialling 191. Even if I was on for an hour each time & passed round to several donkeys who did not understand or couldn't speak English...

    PS: The "on hold" music was Oasis "Some might say" (but none of the operators could say...)

    PPS: Word verification "unhit" lol



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