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TONY HETHERINGTON: Shocking way to sort meter row

Chaos: Ombudsman's report fell short of Scottish Power's botched meter installation

Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s investigator, battling readers’ corners, exposing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left behind. Find out how to contact him below.

CM writes: I have been in a long battle with Scottish Power, over a botched and potentially fatal installation of a smart meter on the wrong property.

In October 2021, I tried to change an outlet in my apartment and received a bad electric shock, despite the power cut.

I found out it was because a smart meter had been installed with electricity left in what is called ‘reverse polarity’, or ‘hot neutral inversion’. It was a matter of luck that I wasn’t killed.

Tony Hetherington responds: You live in a building where the meters are in a common closet, and you had refused to have a smart meter. The one that was installed was actually for your neighbor.

Chaos: Ombudsman's report fell short of Scottish Power's botched meter installation

Chaos: Ombudsman’s report fell short of Scottish Power’s botched meter installation

The night you got the shock, you called an electrician who immediately shut off the power, saying the wiring was unsafe and there was a fire hazard. You were without electricity for 28 hours and, as you work from home, you lost two days of work. You even had to pay £120 to have your electricity reconnected.

But all Scottish Power offered was £75 and an apology, telling you that if you wanted more you had to claim it from its contractor. You then contacted the ombudsman services – and as if things weren’t already bad, they got worse.

The first thing everyone should know about ombudsman services is that it is not a government agency. It’s privately owned, based in Warrington, and paid for by the companies that use it to arbitrate complaints. For example, it runs POPLA, which reviews driver appeals against parking penalties.

Mediation Services told Scottish Power to give you £100 instead of £75, saying it was a ‘goodwill gesture’. But where is the goodwill to leave you behind – and electrocuted – because of mistakes for which Scottish Power was responsible?

The ombudsman’s report was appalling. He described the unauthorized meter connection to your apartment as a simple “service fault”. Electrocute you, cut your electricity, cost you work and land you with an electrician’s bill – all have been given the same label: “lack of service”.

The Ombudsman’s explanation was that “we are not a compensation body”. It cannot ask its member companies to make goodwill payments, and these will not include anything to compensate for actual expenses or loss of work. You were advised to sue the Scottish Power contractor, but the ombudsman couldn’t even say for sure who it was. So an investigation.

Unsurprisingly, you appealed and I posed my own questions to the Ombudsman Services. The response was, in your own words, “openly hostile”. You were told that you did not provide evidence which you claim was never requested. You were asked to produce at-a-glance evidence that the Scottish Power engineer had visited the flats and connected the meter to the wrong address. And you were told to provide proof of the meter details incorrectly attached to your apartment.

You were even told that you had to provide an engineer’s report and an invoice from the electrician you called, as well as proof of your shortfall. These two claims – which the ombudsman’s services did not explain to me – completely contradict the ombudsman’s previous decision that you could not claim compensation for such things. All in all, it has the hallmarks of a malicious attempt to silence you.

Although you only have seven days to produce evidence that should have been found much earlier by the Ombudsman, you have met the deadline. The ombudsman services now accept that it was wrong to rule that Scottish Power was not responsible for installing the meter.

He asked Scottish Power to apologise, correct the wrong meter charge and credit your account with a total of £370. This is to cover the £120 bill you paid, but not the loss of income.

What stands out is the almost total lack of investigative capacity on the part of the ombudsman services. He didn’t even contact the contractor who actually installed the meter. And the ombudsman and Scottish Power gave the names of two completely different installation companies as being responsible, before telling me that they had chosen only one. I am in contact with this contractor now and will let you know the outcome.

The mediation services told me: “We only have a direct relationship with the energy supplier. And Scottish Power said it had received the appeal verdict, adding: ‘Mr M has not yet accepted this, but we are ready to act as soon as he does.’

But what a disgraceful mess from start to finish.

Vueling left us in the dark about refunds

CG writes: My 73 year old mother and I were to fly with Vueling from Gatwick to Barcelona. We arrived at Gatwick, only to be told the flight was cancelled.

We had to accept a flight 14 hours later. We were told to keep receipts for food and drink as costs would be refunded but since then we have received nothing from Vueling and were told we would get nothing.

This company needs to be shut down.

Turbulence: Vueling flight from Gatwick to Barcelona has been canceled

Turbulence: Vueling flight from Gatwick to Barcelona has been canceled

Tony Hetherington replies: Vueling is a low-cost airline owned by the Spanish company IAG, which also owns British Airways. Before contacting Vueling, I took a look at their website, which includes what appeared to be a useful page titled “Press Room”. But when I clicked on it, a message said: ‘Oh my God, this page seems to be on vacation! Looks like he found an irresistible offer and packed his bags. Very funny – but very bad public relations.

BA helped me a lot more, put me in touch with their Spanish sister company, and suddenly you got a message from Vueling, asking for your bank details. Then £438 appeared in your account – presumably to cover tickets, food and drink. All Vueling has told me is that it admits ‘compensation was denied in error’.

If you believe you have been the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at the Financial Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email Due to the high volume of inquiries, no personal response can be given. Please only send copies of original documents, which we regret cannot return.

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