At ScottishPower, we have a clear commitment that if customers are in credit, it is their money not ours. This applies equally to existing and old customers. That is why we have always had a policy of returning customers’ money as quickly as possible following a final bill.
If a customer moves home without telling us where they are moving to, we have no way of knowing where to send their final bill. This final bill may have a debt (where the customers owes us money) or a credit (where we owe the customer money). In fact, the cost of debt written off outnumbers credits by around 10 to 1.
In addition, sometimes customers move home (or leave ScottishPower) and do not give us a final actual meter read. In these cases, we do not know what the reading was when they left so we have no way of calculating an accurate final bill. We therefore produce an estimated bill and try and contact the customer to confirm its accuracy.
These are two problems that face all energy suppliers but we are working hard to fix them for our customers. Obviously, it helps if customers contact us with meter reads and their new addresses. But we recognise we need to do more and we have been working hard in the last 6 months to do this.
Through using tracing agencies and cleansing accounts on our billing system, over the last 6 months, we have returned an additional £11.8m to more than 250,000 customers and plans are in place to refund a further £4.5m by December. This is above our normal business as usual processes, which includes 90% of customers who have changed supplier receiving their refund automatically, usually within 14 days of their final bill. Any customer can claim their valid credit balance at any point in time, no matter how old, and we will return it.
We want to help find former customers and encourage them to get in touch if they think they left any money behind when they switched or moved house. That’s why, we’re also now part of the industry campaign initiative to reunite former customers with unclaimed credits called “MyEnergyCredit”. We’re also working with OFGEM and others on a set of new voluntary minimum standards to reassure customers and minimise unclaimed credit balances building up in future.
However, no matter how hard we try, sometimes we cannot re-unite customers with their money. This is no different from sometimes being unable to collect money from customers who have not paid for their gas and electricity. At some point, due to accounting rules, we need to do something about these debts and credits. For final debts, we write this value off after 18 months. For final credits, we leave this longer and only write it off after 4 years. Now going forward, if a former customer cannot be found, we will create a new vulnerable customer fund, to which all the money will be transferred. We’re even kick-starting this fund with an additional £5.2m injection.
This is all in addition to the other support programmes that we already undertake such as the Warm Home Discount scheme which takes £135 off the bills of vulnerable households.
Our effort to collect debts and return monies on closed accounts continues every single day. We would encourage any customers who have a credit on their final bill to contact us and we will always do our utmost to help.
Customers can find more information about how to obtain a refund of their credit balance by visiting our credit balance refund page at http://www.scottishpower.co.uk/support-centre/billing/credit-balance-refund