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Scottish Power told us our late mother was £41,870 DEBT on utility bills

My mum sadly passed away on Christmas Eve 2020. My siblings and I had to bury her under Scottish Covid rules which only added to our distress and we are still incredibly upset about it.

My sister and I were responsible for sorting the estate. When it came to gas and electricity my sister contacted the Scottish Power Bereavement Team. It said it would send her a final bill.

When it arrived the letter said our mother owed Scottish Power £41,870. We were stunned.

Power Pain: How on earth did the Scottish Power Bereavement Team send out such an inflated bill?

Power Pain: How on earth did the Scottish Power Bereavement Team send out such an inflated bill?

The letter came on a Friday and when my sister opened it Scottish Power’s call center was closed for the weekend.

To add to the confusion, she received another letter the next day stating that the account was indeed credited.

Not being able to talk to anyone on the phone over the weekend added to my sister’s anxiety, who I am angry at because she was worried.

We both care for our disabled husbands and have low incomes, so we were worried about losing money and my sister was particularly scared of the possibility of being chased by debt collectors.

When my sister finally spoke to Scottish Power on Monday they said there was a mistake and the account was indeed in the balance. Later that day, she was promised an email confirming this, but no such email was ever received.

The score is now settled, but I think that’s an unacceptable mistake at an already difficult time. Doesn’t Scottish Power train their staff in basic customer service? p.m., Glasgow

Helen Crane, This is Money, responds: First of all, I am very sorry that you lost your mother at such a difficult time.

Unfortunately, instances where companies have not treated survivors with the care they deserve are all too common.

This is despite the fact that many large companies now have their own grief teams tasked with helping loved ones pay bills and close accounts.

Such was the case with Scottish Power, which made a frankly appalling mistake by sending her vulnerable sister a bill for tens of thousands of pounds.

While the error was recognized relatively quickly, the damage was already done. Her sister spent most of her weekend worrying that a debt collector would show up at her door.

This was because Scottish Power’s customer hotline is closed on Saturdays from 1pm until Monday morning.

Concern: The reader's sister was unable to confirm whether the bill was genuine as Scottish Power's call center is closed for most of the weekend (stock image provided by model)

Concern: The reader’s sister was unable to confirm whether the bill was genuine as Scottish Power’s call center is closed for most of the weekend (stock image provided by model)

When I contacted Scottish Power they said the ridiculously high bill should have been flagged in their system – but it didn’t.

It sent you a more detailed explanation of exactly how this happened, as well as an apology.

Scottish Power has also paid you £350 in compensation for its error and the hardship it caused.

A spokesman said: “We apologize for the billing and customer service issues we have encountered [the customer’s] daughters while taking care of their late mother’s account.

“The significant discrepancy in the billing should have been recognized by our system and flagged for review; however, it was incorrectly sent by the system.

“We addressed the issues and wrote [P.M and her sister] with an apology and an explanation of how the wrong bill was created and issued, confirmed the closing of the energy account with a zero balance and offered a goodwill payment in recognition that our customer service was not what it should have been in such a difficult situation shall time.’

While I’m glad you were compensated for your hardship, the lessons may not seem fully learned.

Just prior to the publication of this article, you wrote to me that your sister had received a letter from Scottish Power at her address, but on behalf of her late mother – which she understandably found extremely disturbing.

It was a small refund, believed to have been generated when Scottish Power finally closed the account, but given the circumstances you are furious.

The law firm had every opportunity to report your case and prevent this from happening again, but failed.

I hope that every company that deals with bereaved families will take note of this botch and ensure their processes are watertight. Customers deserve better.

This is Money giving almost £600,000 back to readers

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Since launching our Consumer Champion column in November 2020, This is Money has saved readers a whopping £592,674.

That’s just under £35,000 a month, or £1,175 a day.

We always want to hear from people who have been mistreated by a company or institution – whether it’s an energy company, a bank, a retailer, or just about anyone else.

But it’s not all bad. We also love hearing about companies that have brightened their customers’ days, provided great service, or gone the extra mile to put things right when they went wrong.

Contact Helen Crane at helen.crane@thisismoney.co.uk including details of what happened and when, and reference numbers or relevant documents if you have them.

Boat Boost: Editor Simon's journey home from France has been improved with travel using DFDS

Boat Boost: Editor Simon’s journey home from France has been improved with travel using DFDS

Hit and Miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Each week I look at the companies that have fallen short on customer service and those that have gone above and beyond.

blow: This week’s hit comes from This is Money editor Simon Lambert. He wanted to yell at the ferry operator DFDS for making his last vacation in France easy.

Simon said: “I got lucky a month ago and booked a ferry back from France with DFDS rather than P&O which I used previously.

“The next day, news broke of P&O Ferries’ bad behavior in sacking all staff. I am very sorry for them and everyone who had booked ferries that are still not running.

“Although we traveled back at a quiet time, on Monday night I was a little concerned that we might face delays and difficulties in Calais due to the chaos P&O has caused. However, there was hardly any traffic and we sailed through check-in.

“However, what really impressed me was that the DFDS customer service experience and standard of the ferry was a significant improvement over P&O.

“DFDS put us on a previous ferry with no questions asked or charge, something P&O used to do as a matter of course but now claim to be able to charge for it.

“The ferry we rode on was also bright, clean and appeared to have been recently refurbished.

‘I will definitely be using DFDS instead of P&O in the future.’

I was happy to hear that Simon’s journey home from France was très bien. It’s nice to know that customers have a decent alternative when they’re unhappy with how events are unfolding at P&O.

Folding fiasco: Samad bought a phone similar to these Samsung models that bend in the middle. However, when something went wrong, the company tried to charge him for the repair

Folding fiasco: Samad bought a phone similar to these Samsung models that bend in the middle. However, when something went wrong, the company tried to charge him for the repair

Miss: Reader Samad did not sing the praises of the tech giant Samsungand thinks the company really calls them when it comes to customer service.

He recently bought a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, a top-of-the-line model that costs almost £1,000 – but the experience freaked him out.

The phone, including the screen, is designed to fold in half and slip into a pocket – but for Samad the snazzy piece of tech wasn’t what it should be.

A problem developed where it would lose all power when the phone was snapped shut, meaning he would not receive calls when his phone was not in his hands. This is an issue that other customers have reported on Samsung’s forums.

But when Samad informed the company of his problem, he was told a repair would take 10 days or more and that he would have to pay £99 for the privilege – even though it was still under guarantee.

Samsung said it caused “impact damage” and said the power issue was its fault.

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What’s more, he was now unconvinced by the foldable design and even regrets buying it.

When I got in touch, Samsung said it was a mistake to charge him for the repair and refunded him his £99.

It also offered him £30 for the inconvenience of being without his phone for some time, although he uses his phone for work he needs a smartphone which will cost many times that amount.

A spokesman said: “After investigating the request, we have discovered that the device was incorrectly registered as out of warranty due to an unforeseen technical error.

“We would like to thank you [Samad] for his understanding and for bringing this to our attention and have decided, with our service partner, to put processes in place to mitigate recurrence as a priority.’

Since then, Samad has informed me that his device could not be repaired and that he was therefore refunded the full purchase price of the phone.

He’s satisfied as he can go ahead and buy a non-foldable phone that hopefully hits the right note.

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Edmund DeMarche

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