My energy supplier used to be SSE, but I was transferred to Ovo in late 2022.
I never had any issues with SSE, but since I was switched to Ovo my bills are much higher, and I am struggling to make sense of what I am being charged.
I am a pensioner and don’t have access to the internet, so I need to receive paper bills. With SSE I would pay over the phone as soon as the bill arrived, but Ovo said I had to set up a direct debit.
The bills arrive late, sometimes weeks after the due date, which means I don’t know how much money is leaving my account until it goes out.
Every time I speak to Ovo, the amount I am told to pay is different from what is stated on my latest bill.
Baffling bills: Our reader saw her energy costs rocket after being switched to supplier Ovo (stock image, posed by model)
I used to pay quarterly over the phone and when bills started going up in 2022 I was paying between £200 and £300 for three months, depending on the time of year.
I paid up in full when I was transferred over from SSE, but my first Ovo bill had set up my monthly direct debit at £186, and still told me I was almost £600 in debt.
I live in a housing association home, and an engineer has checked my heating system and says it is working properly.
I also think a government energy support payment of £200 has also been charged as a debt to me, rather than as a credit on my account.
I want to switch to another supplier as I don’t feel I’m being treated fairly, but first I want to have my Ovo bill properly settled. Can you help? M.M, Scottish Highlands
Helen Crane of This is Money replies: I’m sorry to hear about your energy bill issues, which I know have caused you a lot of distress in recent months.
You sent me some of your bills to have a look at, and I am not surprised that you have struggled to make head nor tail of them. You told me it seemed as if Ovo was plucking figures out of thin air, and I can see why.
When you were forced to leave SSE it issued you with a final bill of £194.39. You paid this off, so you should have started with Ovo with a clean slate – but instead, your first Ovo bill in January 2023 said you owed £598.
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This included a mysterious ‘balance adjustment’ of £304, with no explanation given as to why you now owed that much more.
The bill also listed a £200 government energy support payment you received, as an amount ‘out’ – in other words, something that you owe.
Ovo received this payment from the Government, and transferred it to your bank account – so why had it been added as a debt on to your bill?
But even with that £200 considered as a debt, plus the cost of your energy and the ‘balance adjustment’, the charges still didn’t add up to Ovo’s total of £598.
You also told me that, when you called Ovo to pay your bills, you would be given a different, higher amount than the one written down.
You live in a moderately sized house and I was sad to hear you have cut your energy use ‘to the absolute bone’ when you learned of the higher bills.
You told me that you have arthritis and need to keep reasonably warm to be comfortable, so to make up for putting the heating on you started cooking just one small meal per day to try and keep costs down.
Ovo has something of a track record for wrongly billing customers. It has recently been told to pay compensation to customers, after over-charging 11,000 of them on their energy bills between October 2022 and March 2023.
I also reported on a case last year where someone was accidentally billed £33,000 for two months of energy use in their two-bed flat.
Cutting back: This reader told me she had been cooking fewer meals in an attempt to keep her bills down (stock image, posed by model)
I spent more than an hour running all kinds of calculations on your bill, trying to work out how Ovo had arrived at that £598 figure – but came up with nothing. The numbers literally didn’t add up.
None of my calculations showed you actually owing anything like that much. My best estimate was that you were actually £18 in credit – though the mind-boggling bill made it difficult to tell.
Thoroughly confused, I asked Ovo if it would look again at your bill and check you had been charged correctly. I expected it to come back with an apology, but was surprised to find it stood its ground.
It said that that meter reading SSE had when it calculated your final bill was incorrect, leading Ovo to raise a dispute with SSE. This resulted in the reading being raised substantially, leading to the ‘balance adjustment’ on your February bill and the extra £304 owed.
You have religiously submitted your own meter readings each month, so I don’t know how the firm got it so wrong – especially as you didn’t actually switch energy firm.
SSE is now owned by Ovo, so it should have access to all of its systems and the relevant records.
Ovo also insists that the energy support payment of £200 being listed as an item ‘out’ on the bill was not a mistake – and that it didn’t charge that payment back to you.
Because the numbers on your bill make little sense, it is hard for me to disprove that – but I still believe you have been billed incorrectly at some stage.
When I showed Ovo my workings and the fact that the charges on your bill didn’t add up to the total given of £598, it said this was down to ‘the billing period and the fact there’s been adjusted readings.’
Even if you did owe such a high amount, I think you deserved a really simple breakdown of all of your energy use and the various adjustments and charges, which Ovo has never provided.
A spokesperson said: ‘We’re very sorry to M.M for the confusion around her billing. Her account has been updated and all eligible support payments issued, as well as a goodwill hamper in apology for the shortfalls in service.’
Confusion: Ovo said there was a dispute about the customer’s final meter reading between it and her former energy supplier, SSE
It also said that some of the confusion was caused by you being quoted your ‘live balance’ on the phone, rather than the actual billed amount.
Ovo did send you a hamper as an apology for the inconvenience, as well as one for your daughter who has tried to help you to sort out these bills. I don’t think that is anywhere near enough.
Unfortunately, the stress of this situation was too much and you decided to pay off the bill to put an end to it. You also had to pay a final closing balance of around £270.
The good news is that you have now switched to another supplier, Eon. Since then, you say your direct debit has been reduced from £186 per month to around half that, just £96.
You are back to receiving paper bills within a week of submitting a reading, which you say are clearly itemised and easy to understand.
You also told me the staff you have spoken to have been friendly and helpful and that it is easy to pay your bills using the automated phone system.
I am always happy to hear that a company is considerate of its older customers and those who don’t use the internet.
I do think that you’ve been treated very badly by Ovo. You were in a lot of distress and it has not been helpful at all in explaining the charges on your bill.
I am interested in hearing from other customers who may have had a similar experience. They can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.