Thursday, September 20, 2007


Just a little true-life story about companies that suck:

When I was a filthy student, I used to live in this lovely four-storey, six-bedroom house with a bunch of friends - four of us stayed for two years, another four for one year each. Most of the financial stuff was handled by one of the basement-dwellers, Pete, and I took care of the rest.

He got in touch with me last week to tell me that Southern Electric had just called and told him to give them £1000.

This was not the first time Southern Electric had asked us for money we did not, in fact, owe them (our home was once two separate properties and they were at one point asking us to pay double the metered bill because of this), so he was naturally uncowed. A mess of contradictory details was produced - improbable differences between readings and estimates, demands for cash for power used at a time after our group had moved out, timescales that changed from phonecall to phonecall. Maybe they had a case and were just really, really disorganised about it - that's more likely than them just making it up, but it sure as hell seemed like they'd made another ridiculous error and were expecting us to give them money for it. So Pete called Ofgem, who told him that Southern Electric were too late to legally back-bill us anyway, and gave his complaint a case number.

He called Southern Electric and passed on Ofgem's comments and our case number, and they instantly capitulated and decided not to pursue our money after all.

Like magic.

So when Tory politicians prattle about how we'd all be better off if businesses were deregulated, I can't help but wonder how they're defining 'better off'.

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