Last month I noticed my OVO Energy account had a £350 credit. I pay £120 a month via direct debit so OVO asked if I could lower it.
OVO was hesitant to do so and said I could request a refund.
However, the website states that I must leave the value of three monthly direct debits in the account.
Can it refuse to refund my credit?
Jan Goodall, Southampton, Hants.
Overpaid: OVO seems unwilling to refund a reader’s £350 credit – claiming it must have the value of three monthly direct debits in it at all times
Dean Dunham replies: Your instinct is absolutely right: energy suppliers should not be allowed to cling to overpaid direct debits from consumers and, in fact, are not allowed to do so.
The energy regulator Ofgem confirms this, saying: ‘There is no minimum amount that suppliers can hold.
‘Our rules ensure that consumer funds are always protected and we recently tightened the rules for direct debits, which should prevent too many consumer funds from accumulating.
Refunds must be returned by suppliers in a timely manner. Customers can always request a refund of their balance and we have made sure this is firmly enshrined in our rules.’
This means that OVO and other suppliers are not entitled to hold any credit, so the policy of forcing those consumers with credit to leave the account with the value of at least three monthly direct debits is illegal.
It seems that OVO is not familiar with these ‘rules’ as it clearly flouts them. I submitted all of this to OVO, but it declined to comment.
If you’re having trouble getting the full credit back from an energy supplier, your next step is to ask your energy supplier for a “deadlock letter.”
This is a letter containing the final position on your claim for the Ombudsman to review.
You can then submit a complaint to the energy ombudsman.
To file a claim, see ombudsman-services.org/complain-now.
Be sure to provide a clear timeline of events showing the time period over which your credit was accrued and when you made refund requests, as well as the response you received.
The ombudsman process typically takes between four and six months.
Builder raised cost of roof extension by £9,500
I hired a contractor to convert our attic into a bedroom and agreed a price of £33,000. As far as I’m concerned, this was a fixed price, and for this amount I took out a loan to pay for the job.
The work has now been completed and the builder has done a very good job. However, the final bill is £9,500 more than expected at £42,500.
I have told the company I will not be paying this and in response they have referred me to the terms and conditions which state ‘We reserve the right to increase any fixed charges if the cost of our service increases.’
Can a company really do this?
Lee Grant, Harrogate, N. Yorks.
Dean Dunham replies: A company cannot impose a price increase after a job has been completed for two simple reasons.
First, the terms on which it relies to impose an increase would be understood as a “key term.”
Section 64 of the Consumer Rights Act says key terms must be transparent and made prominent to consumers.
If a consumer only knows a term after completion of the work, the term is not binding.
Second, the Consumer Rights Act also provides a clause that prevents a trader from raising the price of goods or services without giving the consumer the right to cancel the contract.
This also applies if the final price is too high in relation to the price agreed upon when the agreement was concluded.
If a customer agrees to a price that is then increased, the company can stick with the original price or take the customer to court.
It is highly unlikely that she will take legal action, given the protection afforded to consumers by the Consumer Rights Act.
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