Yesterday I came home to a nasty surprise from Scottish Power. The letter was addressed to “The Occupier”, and is what is technically called a notice of deemed supply. Under the rules, when you move house, you automatically have a contract with the supplier that the previous owner of the house had selected. The letter started by stating that they understood that we had moved into the address recently, and that they were the supplier of the electricity. Of course the answer to both points is “no” and “no”.
It is worth filling in a bit of background at this point, as this is not the first time Scottish Power have incorrectly tried to get hold of my electricity supply. Back in 2001 when we moved in, for several months both Southern Electric and Scottish Power were billing us for electricity. Whilst the initial problem was not caused by Scottish Power, it took a number of calls to their customer services, and ultimately a complaint to Energywatch to get them to sort the problem out. When our development was started, Scottish Power provided an unmetered supply, however the builders contracted Southern Electric and British Gas to fit the meters, and signed to have the metered supply from Southern Electric and British Gas. However when we moved in, the builders then notified Scottish Power that we had moved in, and to further confuse matters misquoted the MPAN number on the form!
As a quick aside, when dealing with electricity supply, there are a number of ‘numbers’ that identify you. Firstly there is a premises reference, that uniquely identifies the location, attached to this are a number of MPAN numbers, that identify a particular supply. You also have a unique meter serial number, which identifies the physical meter connected to your supply, and finally you have a customer reference number that represents you using a particular supply or supplies. Although you have the freedom to change electricity suppliers in the UK, you can’t change who actually delivers your electricity – distribution companies are a monopoly. Under the rules your electricity supplier has to put in to the system the same volume of electricity that their customers take out. As a result, each local distribution company maintains the MPAS database, which tells them who is the actual supplier. This database is available online to electricity suppliers to allow them to check up who is the supplier, look up MPAN numbers for addresses, look up the address for an MPAN and so on.
That does highlight an interesting point about the original attempt Scottish Power made to change the supply, in that they were billing against an incorrect MPAN number. Basically nowhere in their systems was there actually any validation of the MPAN against the address, it took myself and Energywatch to get them to manually sort out the problem!
Anyway, back to the letter yesterday. I firstly checked the MPAN against my most recent electricity bill, which matched, so this wasn’t a return of the previous problem. I then called my current supplier, who confirmed that no request to change supplier had been recieved. At this point I tried the number for Scottish Power on the letter, only to be told by a recording that their office wouldn’t be open again until Monday. At this point I called Energywatch, as last time I waited for a while, and it wasn’t until they became involved that Scottish Power started sorting things out. The Energywatch person opened a complaint for me, but said that they couldn’t do anything until I had complained to Scottish Power and given them ten days to respond, he also said that many of the problems like this are caused by a mistyping of an MPAN number on a transfer.
This morning I wrote a suitable letter of complaint, and have put in a copy of the letter they sent last time stating that they had made a mistake, and that they were not supplying our house. (The letters are pictured above with the other letters in the “Scottish Power Screw Ups File”.) I also managed to get through on their normal general enquires number, which again produced some interesting points. Firstly, their main customer database does not have our home address at all, which is good as it means that their main billing system doesn’t think it’s supplying us. She then looked up our MPAN number, which came back with the address of the building plot, i.e. the address before the house had been finished. Oddly enough this isn’t the address that they used in their notice of deemed supply.
Whilst this leaves me somewhat more happy that this is a fairly straightfoward problem to solve, this does make some interesting points. Scottish Power managed to send a letter to an address they don’t have on thier database, against an MPAN that was attached to a different address in another of their systems stating (incorrectly) that they were supplying my electricity. Basically there were three points where they could have validated against their own systems, or against the national MPAS system, but they didn’t. It also leaves me wondering what else they don’t check, or is incorrectly stored!
Update: I’ve just phoned up the local MPAS service, and got them to check who is supplying, and it is with the correct supplier, and no indication of any change. They also confirmed that Scottish Power have not supplied since 2001. She did suggest that I should ask Scottish Power why they didn’t double check their information with the MPAS system, much the same question that I’m asking! Interestingly, the first reaction of a friend who has had problems with Scottish Power and Virgin sales reps on the doorstep was “So this is their latest tactic to try and get customers”. Whilst I think it probably is just a typo on data entry into a lousy computer system that isn’t validating it’s data, it does sum up the impression of the electricity industry in the general public that many people automatically assume that my letter is actually a deliberate fiddle, rather than a mistake.