20 Nov 2013

High energy company bill shatters my pipe dream

Just as the sub-zero temperatures take hold, so too does the energy giant SSE’s price rise. On its website there’s the somewhat laughable understatement: “Our prices have changed”.

In fact, that change means an 8.2 per cent price hike for millions of SSE customers.

20_sse_screenshot2_wIt’s been pointed out that the firm made profits of £354m in just six months, so you might have thought its long-suffering customers could have been spared this winter. Apparently not.

At this juncture I’d better declare an interest.

A few days ago a letter from Southern Gas – which is 50 per cent owned by SSE – dropped into the inbox. It had me spluttering over my cornflakes. It was a demand for £1171.20 (including VAT).

Quite an eye-watering sum. It’s the amount the company wants to charge us to disconnect an old gas pipe.

Two elderly siblings used to live in our house and they had separate kitchens, bathrooms and evidently gas supplies, even though the property wasn’t formally divided into two flats.

Since moving in we’ve never bothered about the 1970s-era gas box plonked in the middle of the front garden. But tidying up and doing a bit of planting the other day, we decided we wanted rid of it. And the only way to do that was to get the old pipe disconnected.

When we remonstrated with the original quote, we got a revised estimate – still a socking great £913.20.

We were further incensed when the contractor explained that the work was a matter of a mere 20 minutes.

What’s more, the sister company of Southern Gas in Scotland – Scotland Gas Networks – would charge £453 for the same work. That’s some North South divide for you.

No wonder the politicians are exercised about the energy companies. And no wonder customers are voting with their feet and looking for cheaper deals elsewhere.

USwitch tells me that since SSE’s became the first of the big six to announce price rises just last month, switching has increased by up to 600 per cent.

As for our little local difficulty, we now plan to plant something decorative in front of the box. Either that or we’ll stick a garden gnome on it and call it a retro feature.

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