'An energy company demanded I pay someone else's bill for months. It was frightening'

·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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Imogen started receiving letters in March demanding she pay for another customer's energy bill. (Supplied)

A woman says she felt hounded by an energy company that was demanding she paid someone else's outstanding bill.

Imogen Shaw, 26 from London, says OVO Energy pursued her for months and sent her letters threatening to refer her to a debt collection agency if she didn't pay up.

She said the company demanded she pay more than £100 for the energy being used in an empty flat in the same block as her's.

And despite repeatedly trying to explain the error, she was unable to get the debt wiped clear and faced the prospect of having her credit rating impacted.

'Really frightening'

Imogen said the problem began when she received a letter from OVO on 4 March thanking her for providing the company with details for a new account. The letter also included a contract for her to sign.

However, she was confused as she has been with a different energy provider since February 2021, and had made no request to change.

On 7 March, OVO sent her another letter claiming she owed £48.95 for bills between 12 November 2021 to 11 February 2022.

Read more: Some renters to miss out on £400 energy discount, experts warn

Imogen contacted the company and was told it was an error, and would be resolved within four weeks.

However, on 6 June OVO sent another letter demanding an increased sum of £111.67 – warning that a failure to pay could affect her credit rating.

After contacting OVO multiple times, Imogen was told the company had obtained her details via a third party investigator conducting a "trace and search".

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OVO Energy told Imogen that failing to pay the bills could affect her credit rating. (Supplied)

OVO said this is designed to track down people liable for bills in empty properties, and her name had come up - despite her living in Flat 1 and the outstanding bill being for Flat 3.

After months of back and forth, OVO told her on Thursday that she needed to send an email asking for the trace and search to be reversed with a copy of her tenancy agreement proving she does not live in Flat 3.

Having sent the email, Imogen was swiftly informed the address was not associated with her account and that OVO could not respond for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) reasons – even though she didn't have an OVO account and was registered with another supplier.

Read more: Rishi Sunak vows to cut VAT on household energy bills

The company also told Imogen that more bills in her name are being sent to another address in London, but refused to say what address, also citing GDPR reasons.

Imogen said the ordeal took its toll on her.

“When the cost of energy is so high... it’s just been really frightening to receive letters demanding that I pay somebody else’s late energy bills," she told Yahoo News UK.

"I [was] just running into bureaucratic hurdle after bureaucratic hurdle. I’m astonished that an energy company is able to do this: create an account for me and start charging me for another property's energy."

Imogen said she was scared that the ordeal could affect her credit rating and her ability to buy a house in the future, and that her data privacy has been breached.

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Imogen said she's concerned what happened could happen to other customers. (Supplied)

"I’m renting in London - and hopefully, one day, might be able to get somewhere to buy," she said.

"[The OVO situation] has really impacted the way I’ve been feeling about that process because it’s made me very nervous that it will affect my credit rating.

"This situation does sound so unbelievable that would I be believed if I tried to explain that this isn’t something that’s my fault, or something that I have caused?"

Read more: Energy bills: MPs warn £400 discount not enough to mitigate October rise

She said she’s concerned that this could happen to vulnerable people during the cost-of-living crisis.

“It’s the kind of mistake that could cause real harm to someone vulnerable if they were already facing serious serious money pressures," said Imogen.

OVO pledged to investigate the situation on Friday after Yahoo News UK contacted the company regarding Imogen's case.

On Monday, OVO told Yahoo News UK: “We’re sorry to Ms Shaw for the inconvenience she’s experienced and can confirm she won’t receive any future communication from OVO.”

Imogen has also confirmed that OVO subsequently contacted her and promised to delete her details from their system.

Watch: Households could be offered cheaper energy if they cut usage at certain times

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