Belfast Telegraph

Consumer: Electricity supplier's error saw £2,000 leave widower's bank account

By Claire McNeilly

Opening bank statements isn't often fun, but what if you discovered almost £2,000 was missing from your account?

Unfortunately, that's what happened to Leslie Neill, a 90-year-old widower from Belfast, when he recently received a balance update and saw what dual energy supplier Airtricity had taken payment for 10,000 units of electricity he allegedly used.

He said it happened some weeks after a new meter was installed because he was told the old meter was faulty.

"My bills are normally around the £80 mark so I was extremely shocked when I saw they'd raided £1,913.43 from my account on November 26," said Mr Neill. "That money was only in the bank because I was saving up for oil for the winter.

"I was traumatised by the bill and it tore me apart with worry for days but I couldn't get in touch with anyone from the company. It was really upsetting to have this happen so close to Christmas, particularly as I wasn't given any prior notice before the money was taken."

The father of two grown-up sons, who has lived alone since his wife died 18 months ago, then asked his daughter-in-law Eilish to intervene.

"I called several times and sent an email to the Airtricity website without success. It was very stressful," she said.

When the Belfast Telegraph contacted Airtricity a spokesman said Mr Neill has now been refunded.

"Mr Neill received a large bill as a result of an incorrect meter read which was submitted to Airtricity by electricity networks operator Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) following the installation by NIE of a new electricity meter at his home," a statement read.

"Unfortunately the bill was not queried prior to its due date and as a result the direct debit amount was taken from his account in the normal manner.

"We worked hard with NIE over the following days to identify an error in the original meter read that was submitted to us. As a result of this investigation NIE was able to correct the meter read and we were able to quickly refund the overcharged amount."

Mr Neill confirmed £1,700 was repaid into his account on December 17 – 22 days after over £1,900 was debited.

"I'm relieved," he said, "but there is still a question of compensation for the trauma I went through and the loss of use of the money."

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