September 29, 2011

Picking Fights-Updated

Two stories to tell this week.

The first is about electricity and the unreasonable (in this case unlawful and illegal) costs demanded by suppliers. I suppose we can mostly agree that they want too much money, but what gets my goat is the "green" shit attached to my energy bill.

They sent me an estimate for the next 12 months. £2,800. That's two thousand eight fucking hundred British pounds. I phoned them up to ask if they were doolally. They are. And it has forced me to write to their legal department to ask several questions. The wifey on the phone, (a very cheerful lady) said that 12% of my bill goes to the government for "environmental & social schemes, CO2 emissions, and the like". And the like? She couldn't expand on that last fuzzy definition of what the charges went to.

I asked her "Who says you have to charge me 12% for this nonsense?".

"Government", she says, quite emphatically. (She thought she had dodged a bullet there. She was wrong).

"Really?", I ask, "So can you just quote me the statute, Bill or Act that says so?".

"Erm, no. I don't have it to hand" she says.

"No problem, I'm paying for the call, go and get it from your legal peeps".

8 minutes on hold.

"I called them and they can't put their fingers on the exact law at this time" she says.

"That's because no such law exists", says I.

She had lost all of her earlier cheerfulness. I think I may have ruined her day.

Anyhoo, I knew it wasn't her problem, and we had already discovered that no-one told her that they were scamming customers out of (what must be) millions of £££'s each year.

So I have sent them an FOI request to discover just exactly when they started charging me this 12%, to ask for the statute by name, and for them to point out specifically where it says that I, the consumer, must pay it. I asked them a couple of other awkward questions while I was at it. I'll get back to you on this when they get back to me. They have 20 days and counting.

Courtesy of our pal Nige, check this video out:

Good stuff this. It is information you can and should use. I fully intend to.

The second story is about that bully we pay billions to every year-the taxman. I used to dread talking to them, nowadays I find unparalleled joy in our little talks.

Back in 2003 I wasn't earning much. One day a form drops through my door entitled "Do you qualify for working tax credits?". I had no idea, so I filled it in and sent it off. They wrote back and said "You DO qualify! We will start sending you truckloads of money". And they did. It all went well for about three months. I got a promotion and a pay rise at work and I duly informed them by phone, as instructed. "We will send a new form for you to fill in" they said. The form arrived, I filled it in and sent it off. (Basically the form was the written version of our telephone conversation). Instead of reducing the amount they were paying, they increased it. I phoned and said "Stop sending me money. I do not qualify for (this much) anymore". "No problem" said they, "We will amend the figure". They didn't. The money kept on coming. Long story short, I made about 14-20 calls to them over an 18 month period. I filled in more forms than you could wave a shitty stick at, and they kept getting it wrong. Every time. Their gormlessness reached unprecedented heights.

Fast forward five years. I forget to complete the annual form. They write to me saying "We want our £6K back". I said "Nope. Not paying that. How do we make this go away?". They said "Keep filling in the annual forms we send and we will never ask you for the money". So that is what I did. They paid me something each year (a small sum) but they took it off me again and used that to whittle down the total. All good until last Friday.

I got a demand. In the post. I rang them for a chatsky.

They said, "We want our £4K."

I said, "Nope. Not paying it. You told me...etc etc".

They said, "Well, you no longer qualify for any money whatsoever and now we want that overpayment back".

I said, "How do we make this go away?".

They said, "Let's set up a standing order".

"Ain't gonna happen", says I, "Think of another way".

"We---ell," they said, "If you think we messed up that might be a way of getting rid of your debt".

"WHOA!", says I, "Let's never use that expression again. It is not my debt. You screwed up every step of the way. This is not my problem, it is yours. You fix it".

"Erm, okay. We'll send you some forms", they said.

The forms arrived yesterday. They mostly state both parties responsibilities and I rapidly discovered that I had honoured every single one of mine (and I told them so) and that they had dishonoured every single one of theirs (and I told them so), I used every available millimetre of white space to explain why, how and when they had fucked it all up. It went in the post this morning.

They have two weeks to get back to me. One thing I will guarantee: it will be a cold day in hell before I pay them a penny. Even if they don't like my version of events, I have at least six other ways to tie them in knots.

My reasoning is this: if I call the garage and order a mini, but they deliver a  BMW 320 and I point out their mistake, and they do nothing to correct their mistake, I am going to drive the Beemer. Then, 8 years later when they ask me to pay for a Beemer and not the mini that was promised, I am going to say....fuck off.

The two stories are related in that they are both demanding money from me. The energy company (with whom I have a private contract) will be paid what I lawfully owe but I am not paying them an additional 12% when they have absolutely no legal obligation to charge me for this shite in the first place. I am not the first to challenge an energy company on this issue. The precedent is in place.

The taxman screwed up. Apart from any other lawful excuse I may employ to make the problem go away, I also remember (Blair?) announcing to the HoC that overpayments would not be clawed back. I searched Hansard but could not find that particular speech. I'll keep looking.

In the meantime, try saying no. It works a treat.



james said...

dear mr ranty, i never thought about the 12% extra you have to pay on your utilities bill for the good of the earth! there surly is no way they can argue if you want a refund as it is not law, or a statute. keep us all posted and i will have the lads on site fully informed tomorrow

Bill said...


How did you get a private contract with your grasping power company?
I've been with five companies after Norweb was disbanded and have seen neither hide nor hair of a contract.

I am battling with Scottishpower at present. Their 'system' doubled my direct debit from £49 a month to £99.
An intervention from a human employee produced a lower figure of £71.
To cut out all the bullshit. No comparison site can recreate either figure even though I enter Scottishpowers 'proven' consumptions in KWH.

Turns out that Scottishpower make it all up. Meter readings get sent in by me and they 'fixed' or meddled with by their automated system which is clearly set up to overcharge by default.

It's all a massive con that is designed from the ground up to prevent anyone from working out what the cheapest electricity and gas tariffs are for each charging company. But I am determined to get to the bottom of it.

Captain Ranty said...


Fear not. When I get the result I/we deserve, I will be telling the world.

This shit has to stop.


Captain Ranty said...


I say "private" because my supplier is a private corporation.

And you are right, no contract really exists.

I meant to ask in the post how much (roughly) everyone else was paying.

Two years ago I was paying £50 per month. How the hell did it get to £357 per month? I am using no more than I did before.

Like you say, this is a monumental scam.

Let me know what you discover. I'll do likewise.


dak said...

You're an electricity-only customer of ScottishPower, aren't you?

Only (only!!) 7% is environmental surcharge, the other 5% is VAT.

Mind you, it's just gone up from 6%.

Full story here:

Good luck,


Woodsy42 said...

"I am using no more than I did before."

You may well be using less, unless you have a stock of real light bulbs.

The estimated monthy payments thing has always been a scam, it is clearly designed to create a large overpayment. We argue with British Gas every single year, usually a person changes it and makes it more sensible.

Captain Ranty said...


I am not with ScottishPower but I am all electric. No gas in in the village. Mind you, would that make a difference? I'd be getting scammed for gas as well as the wiggly volts.

For clarity: my real beef is with those "government obligations" mentioned in your link. (Thanks for that, BTW).

I don't care that energy companies have to pay the government more. They just ain't collecting it off me. Particularly as there is no statute that demands it. (Not that that would matter, there are ways around that too).

Cheeky bastards.


Captain Ranty said...


Yep, every lightbulb is one of those godawful green fuckers. Useless, they are.

First step for me is to rid myself of that rip-off 12% (or whatever the fuck it is, the chick on the phone gave me several different percentages) then I will start on the rest of the billing.

I'll document the fight here until the bell rings.

I don't want to report a TKO either. I want to put the bastards in a coma.


Anonymous said...

gas and electrify bill combined increased to £95 per month. Are you being over-charged to recoup under payment? £357 leccy bill is way high unless you live in a 50 room castle.

dak said...

Hi CR,

Would you be able to tell me which power company you are with, because as far as I knew SP were the only ones to split out the government obligations. I can see the Whitelee elephant from my front door, so I'm with EDF, and they don't provide any details but hide it in their power charge.

It does make a difference whether you are electric, gas or both. Electric only is the highest environmental proportion with SP.

I'm shortly to take SP to small claims to retrieve the obligations cost on the bill in the blog post and I'll be documenting it there.


Anonymous said...

The only way to pay the correct amount for your electricity/gas bill is to enter the correct readings _yourself_ on the online billing service. Then pay a quarterly, monthly or weekly amount to keep slightly in credit or bang on.
Of course, there is ZERO discount if you do this, thereby making the most sensible way to pay the most expensive. None of our bills are paid by direct debit, as we don't view this as being sensible in the slightest after being overcharged many times in the past, or double billed in some cases.
About benefits in general in our recent experience. It is a mess. It has taken 3 months just to get child benefit, now it has gone around in a form-filling circle again. Our circumstances changed (ESA to Tax Credits) and it has taken GREAT effort, many phone calls, many repeat forms (still ongoing) to get the DWP to cancel ESA payments. We were positively assured not to worry about it and as it was their fault, we would not have to repay the overpayments. Lo and behold, in pops a letter from the DWP saying "because your circumstances changed and _you did not inform us of this change_ we require immediate repayment_" IDIOTS!
I can only surmise that the incompetence is purposeful, the main purpose to make people simply give up in the first instance, the second to make claiming what is RIGHTFULLY yours such an unpleasant and imbalanced assault on your integrity that you will think twice about ever bothering with it in future.

Sue said...

Cool. Richard North is fighting council tax and bailiff charges and you this... sometimes I wish I lived in the UK so I could take on the government on something that fucks me off too...

Essentially, even though we are climate "sceptics", we are being forced to pay for bad science?

Where the fuck is Cameron? Have you noticed how he disappears when things get tough?

Funny, I was thinking, when I first stumbled across your blog, you didn't swear, neither did David at Witterings. Now you both let off like troopers :)

Captain Ranty said...

Anon (19:18),

Yes, there is a figure of £1300 which I am disputing. I have no idea where it came from. One day they wrote and said to clear the debit I had to increase my DD from £50 per month to £150 per month. Now they want to more than double that.

Something is very wrong.


Captain Ranty said...


I am with Scottish Hydro (they may also trade as SSE), but, when I asked them five months ago about this environmental charge they said "We don't pass that on to customers".

Looks like they changed their minds.

Best wishes with your claim. I will do the same if I am forced to.


Anonymous said...


Well done for sticking in there and educating the ignorant fuckwit.
I'll tell you an interesting story regarding the electric. I came back from London to use Scottish Hydro and had no idea of the cost of certain appliances, to which over my first Christmas I ran up a bill of £300+ for the quarter. Of course I was unable to pay, being skint and it slipped, for a while. They then started getting on my case saying they wanted £100 a month from me to pay it off as the current £65 wasn't enough. I told them where to go as you can imagine stating "was their company going to fold because I owed them £300, of which they'd shafted me in ever increasing fuel bills, well above inflation and the the average living wage?" Of course the moron on the other end went into android mode, of which I asked if he's read 1984 or Brave New World, telling him he was helping build the prison our future generations will live in. I also told him to cut the bullshit and speak like a human as I knew he was reading off a script seeing as I'd done telephone jobs in the past as well.

Anyway, after months of them threatening me I had enough. When they called me again. I told them the following:

"I have been with your company for two years, never defaulted on a payment and you're busting my balls over a bill I can't afford to pay, stating you want to help me by installing a meter that will take off £30 every month before electric usage. Here's the rub - I'm sick and tired of your bullying and threatening letters of taking me to court. Take me to court and you'll lose. And moreso, where's the contract that states I must pay you a penny? You'll find I never signed one and therefore if I decide to pay you FA then you can scream all day for it will do you nothing whatsoever. Go away and stop bothering me."

Of course, after that phone call, things drastically changed. I got a phone call from a manager apologising the way I'd been treated and the threatening letters instantly stopped. They then asked if I could pay x amount a month instead of demanding it from me. Lol the worm had turned. Buch of wankers to say the least but they bully you, well try to. Of course more was said in the phone call, such as foreign wars, theft of oil reserves and therefore the lie they foist upon us about increased fuel costs and it did wake some up, but overall, if you behave like a doormat they'll walk all over you.


Captain Ranty said...

Anon (19:20),

Oddly enough, the wifey on the phone said I could save a whopping 1% if I did everything online.

I think the readings are correct. But I am now convinced I am heating and lighting seven other houses in my village.

Another thing, I bought one of those meters you clamp on to your supply. You plumb in the two rates (I get a cheaper rate at night) and it tells you how much (in pence) you are using per hour. The supplier says £7.57 per day on average but the most I can get it to is £3.10

I am farkin baffled.

I hear you on the form filling and the "it's all your fault" stuff.

These people make idiots seem like rocket scientists.


Captain Ranty said...


This lot are incompetent enough to make a fucking saint curse. I always did swear -I reckon it is a vital part of the English language-I even used to have a warning about it in the banner above. I figured people get treated like kids enough in the real world so I deleted the warning. If folk dont like my profanity they can just fuck right off! :)

These fights need to happen. We have been bending over for far too long. You expect it from the govt but not from private companies who actually need our money to survive.


Captain Ranty said...


Quite right.

No more being a doormat for me. I had considered just bunging them the £1300 in order to bring the monthly cost down but I am pissed off about that charge too. As I said earlier, I have no idea where it came from. It was a lot lower, they trebled my DD to £150 but the number just keeps getting higher.

How the fuck does that happen?

I will square this one away. I have been with Scottish Hydro since moving to Scotland in 1989.

How very dare they take the piss out of me?

How dare they take the piss out of all of us?

Heads will roll.


dak said...

Hi CR,

You probably already know that Hydro's terms and conditions are here.

Sections 4.1 and 4.4 look particularly relevant.

Captain Ranty said...

Hi Dak,

Thanks for that.

4.4 rattles on a bit about obligations. That's fine, but I want to know who determined those "obligations" and when/how did I sign up to them?

It must have been via osmosis because I have never signed a contract with SH, same as Harbinger.


Anonymous said...


Completely and rightfully so!

I reminded them that they are a business and without cutomers they no longer would be, so they'd better start showing a bit of respect around here or (as I said to the manager on the phone) they'd have no job to go to, not that, they won't anyway in the future, very near future that is when the economy collapses and they can pay Indians/Chinese £1 a day to do their job - which will happen.

The whole problem with me started with DD (Direct Debit). I didn't have enough to cover the debit on the following monday and called them up to ask if they could reduce it to £45 instead of the £55. They said they couldn't as it had gone out, so I had no choice but to cancel it. This was when the problems started. They said to me they wanted this and that and to set up standing orders but I explained, if I was paying the bill at the same time as I was each month with DD, then what was the problem? This they couldn't understand so I told them to go fuck themselves and whistle dixie - I'd pay what I could, when I could and that was that. When I told them to take me to court I politely explained to them that the judge would rule in my favour as I'd never defaulted and in my present circumstances was paying more than I could afford already, meaning that they'd lose and have court bills to pay. They knew this and their bluff had backfired on them.

Cap'n, pay what you can and if they're not happy fuck 'em. My pleasure comes from talking to the automatons on the other end of the phone oblivious to the fact that they're merely years away from living in Shitsville and once they get there they'll realise what a bunch of wankers they've been to people on the phone in order to do their job. People wake up when reality stares coldly straight back at them and I laugh when I meet people who did jobs such as these because I say, with hand on heart, I've never been in a job that's shafted the individual, working for a company that doesn't give a shit.

Again Cap'n, hold your ground. They can't win and they know that, hence the bullying. I'd also stop your DD instantly as there's nothing they can do about that either. LOL. Pay when you can what you can and if they're not happy with that then fuck'em.


Anonymous said...

you might find this interesting captain.
entitled the energy bandits!

dak said...

Hi CR,

You probably haven't explicitly agreed to the "obligations" - I don't know of anyone who has, they just seem to have appeared a few years ago and I can't find any record of power companies informing their customers that these were being added to the bills.

From what I understand, these are legally a "post-contractual obligation" and therefore unenforceable: that's the route I'm using to try to get the money back.


Captain Ranty said...


I agree.

We are learning fast, are we not? :)


Captain Ranty said...


Thanks for the reminder. I had watched it before but I thought everything was okay.

Now I know that things are far from normal.

I have added the vid to the main post.


CrazyDaisy said...


You've got me phoning Eon in the morning to fuck them off - I've done the same with bank errors this week. Tomorrow they are in default so off to small claims I go - power company = easy meat.

Got 2 DCAs in a position where I will Commercially Lien them next month for £154k and £98k - all you needs the ballsto stand your ground - simples =]

Gin RV required soon...


Bill said...

Having read through the SP posts on Bloggo I'm thinking I will pull the same 'trick' that they do.

Last summer UU imposed a 42 day hosepipe ban in my part of the world. I waited for their October bill to see if they offered a discount. They didn't so I calculated my own, 10% of the cost of the daily rate for the 42 days of the ban and sent in Octobers payment net of the discount.
They whined about not accepting customer generated discounts BUT they would accept it this time as a 'one off gesture'. They still added it to the April and October bills so I will now send in a letter asking them to issue a corrected bill if they want payment and keep my cash to one side ready for the penny dropping, haha!

So here's the Shaft SP plan.
Switch over from DD to payment by cheque, which all power companies hate and then start deducting an arbitrary percentage from the quarterly cheque payment loosely based on the renewable obligation loading.

As no contract exists they cannot prove a loss and there is a statute in place, sorry cannot remember its name & number, which prevents the power from being cut off if the house is inhabited!

But that will have to wait a while as I have a line into Scottishpower that is slowly revealing how they really do business. A bit of reading betwixt the lines required but will share everything with the good Capn.

Anonymous said...

One of the nice ladies at the bank explained the difference between a direct debit and a standing order.

A standing order is what you instruct your bank to pay, controlled by you.

A direct debit is what wankers who claim money have open access to your account, and take what they want.

I remember the old TV ads - "It's so much easier with direct debit"

Easier for them to fleece your account, according to their whims.

People should just cancel all their direct debits and switch to a standing order and bring the direct debit scam to its knees.

Captain Swing said...

Been there done that.
EDF tried to extract £6000 out of me because they had messed up their end.
I told them in no uncertain terms that I wasnt paying it and demanded
the written contract that specified what happens in this event which surprise surprise was never produced..
After about a year of arguing I managed to get the arrears down to about £400 payable over 2 years.
Keep going and dont take no for an answer.
Challenge everything-accept nothing.

berni said...

I'm having a battle with british gas over the "green charges on my duel fuel.

I am waiting also on their reply pointing me to the legislation that allows them to steal my money in the guise of AL gores wet dream.

I had the threat of a court warrent to enter my property to fit a prepayment meter.All because i would'nt agree to the upping of my monthly payment.

After many letters and phone calls i am now paying a sum i can afford and as a goodwill gesture i received £20 in free gas and electric (they knocked it off my bill).

So many people don't even realise they are paying thses green taxes and have been for years.

I'll update when i get a reply.

As a footnote llidls are selling t-shirts and sweatshirts with the slogan KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON i brought mine today, thought you might be interested in view of the piece you did on the trade marking of the slogan.

Sike said...

I am on a prepayment meter with Scottish Power. My original contract was with Manweb. I will be on the phone to Scottish Power in the morning to enquire about my rebate

James Higham said...

Cap'n, I'm in the same position with a different utility and am also blogging on it. It is so bad what they are doing. Commiserations and fight the bstds.

Jan said...

Cap'n I've been wondering for a while if this green tax there taking of us is legal.
Will be watching you blog on this with much interest

Sackerson said...


Look up the law of estoppel.

Xen347 said...

Captain, a bit OT but is a contract only a contract if it has two signatures as party to it?

Or can a contract be enacted by one party agreeing to the terms by carrying out an action that invokes the contract?

I understand bi-lateral and uni-lateral contracts and how only bi-lateral in wet ink are considered to be the only lawful ones but that doesn't necessarily seem to work in our corrupt court system.

Invicta said...

Coincidentally, I got my EDF "breakdown" yesterday....
On Gas - 3% Social and Environmental costs" on Electricity 6%. I'll be ringing them this morning. Thanks Captain.

Anonymous said...

You sent a FOI request to your electricity supplier? Do you realise the Freedom Of Information Act only applies to public bodies, not private companies? You need to send your request to whichever government department receives the 12% of your bill.

Xen347 said...

British Gas on a dual fuel bill split down everything:


39% - Wholesale Electricity
26% - Delivery to your home
12% - Operating costs
6% - VAT and corporation tax
12% - Govt. obligation to help the environment
5% - Profit


56% - Wholesale Gas
21% - Delivery
8% - O C
6% - VAT etc
4% - Environment obl.
5% - Profit

Captain Ranty said...


Thanks for the many comments.

Sorry I have not yet replied to each, I was away all day yesterday.

When I got home late last night there was a little surprise waiting for me: a speeding ticket.

I'll tell you all about it in the next post.


Bill said...

Interesting stuff

Wholesale Gas Market Trading

Conventional tender style purchasing, leaves clients at the mercy of the market on any given day as gas prices, since de-regulation, now fluctuate hourly. The supply of energy and the price you pay is divided into three main components.

A. Generation - accounts for 70% of the final billed price
B. National distribution - accounts for 25% of the final billed price
C. Local distribution, billing and cost to serve - accounts for 5% of the final billed price.

This also includes a risk margin and is usually dependent on the economic climate and current market volatility. In conventional tendering the main area for pricing flexibility is in area C and thus there is little room for manoeuvre. Purchasing direct from the wholesale gas market takes us to area A, where 70% of price is generated and energy is purchased flexibly.
Eg energy can be bought for delivery tomorrow, next week, the coming month (s), the coming year (s).

And this