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Bonkers Blog January 2020

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15 January - Broken Bulb

BulbApologies for going right off topic but it’s to fulfill a promise and maybe it will give would-be Bulb Energy customers an idea of what they might be letting themselves in for.

A year ago I recommended the energy company Bulb as a cheap source of green energy and a number of Bonkers’ readers took advantage of the £100 transfer bonus. As far as I know all of those new customers are happy with their choice but the mark of a good company is one that is able to sort out problems quickly and efficiently when they arise. On that score Bulb fails miserably.

Around 18 months ago I made a similar recommendation to a friend who is not as relaxed about computers as most of us. He is 83 years old, perfectly capable of submitting on-line meter readings but perhaps a little out of his depth when it comes to email. if there is anything slightly out of the ordinary I deal with it for him. In fact I have an email account set up on this computer which impersonates him when the need arises.

All went well with his Bulb account until late summer last year when he told me that Bulb wanted to fit a Smart meter. I had had the same offer myself and declined it but when I looked into the situation more carefully I realised that all Bulb wanted to do for my friend was to swap out his bog standard consumption meters because they had reached the end of their reliable life. So he gave permission for Bulb to install new ones in the cupboard under his stairs. Two meters because he has Economy 7 or whatever Bulb call their cheap overnight tariff.

It was probably around the end of October when someone came and did the job - or so we thought. A week later Bulb asked for the regular monthly meter reading and it was then that we discovered there was no Economy 7 meter. It simply wasn’t there any more.

My friend phoned Bulb on I think three occasions and no one could understand what his problem was. Too outlandish to be true perhaps? Along the way he discovered why in a recent Which? survey Bulb scored the longest telephone wait time. 40 minutes.

An email produced a response to the effect that Bulb was too busy to answer emails. I think there may have been two more emails, certainly at least one but no replies.

I tried Webchat but that was hopeless. I asked a question and it was about 20 minutes before any response came back. That of course asked a security question and that too took 20 minutes to extract a response. I discovered that Bulb had run out of Economy 7 meters but I gave up pursuing things further. Webchat with a minimum delay of 19 minutes for each response was not going to get anywhere in a reasonable time.

My friend, the Bulb customer, was by now becoming very agitated about Bulb’s refusal to talk to him. Not everyone can cope with the stress and he believed, maybe wrongly, that he was being overcharged for his electricity.

TwitterIn desperation I took to Twitter (†) to see if public exposure might provoke some action. It did. On 11th December Bulb blamed Siemens for going around allegedly changing meters but in practice simply disconnecting them. The following day they promised to sort it out. “Yep, we’re working on getting this sorted out!”

And absolutely nothing happened. No phone call, no email, no Twitter Direct Message.

I let it go a month and asked again; specifically is the overnight electricity being metered at the day rate or is it not being metered at all? I also noticed something my friend hadn’t; that monthly billing had ceased, the last one was dated October 2019.

My friend wants to change supplier but I advised that a transfer was likely to fail for an address that has no meter.

There has been no response to the further complaint which included a promise to send the case to OFGEM by next Friday and go public with Bulb’s incompetence here today.

Things go wrong in all walks of life and maybe Siemens have in effect been defrauding Bulb by undertaking a meter exchange programme when they haven’t the materials to fulfill their obligations; but nothing excuses Bulb’s customer relations incompetence. Near impossible to phone and impossible to extract any sense from them that way. A refusal to answer emails, a Webchat service that is not fit for purpose and Tweeting useless assurances or remaining mute.

Maybe this public exposure will provoke a response when everything else has failed.

There has been no significant problem with my own Bulb account but if something does go wrong I think it might be best to cut one’s losses and simply move elsewhere as quickly as possible.

† Not my regular account.


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