'Appalling' error left retiree paying neighbour's energy bills of £400 a month for six years

Judith Stenner with daughter Semra Kurutac

Judith Stenner, pictured with her daughter (right), has been paying hundreds more each month

PA
Jessica Sheldon

By Jessica Sheldon


Published: 19/09/2023

- 11:51

Updated: 19/09/2023

- 13:58

The retiree’s energy bills soared from £60 a month to more than £400 a month

ScottishPower has apologised after a retired midwife was left paying for a neighbour’s energy bills for six years – costing her hundreds of pounds extra each month.

Judith Stenner, 72, saw her energy bills rocket from £60 a month to more than £400, due to a crossed meter.


The mother-of-two, from Manchester, said she endured a “bit of a marathon” to try and resolve the ordeal.

ScottishPower had told her that she was a “high energy user”, prompting Ms Stenner to try to cut her energy usage in any way she could.

ScottishPower logo behind a lightbulb

ScottishPower has apologised after Judith Stenner, 72, was left paying her neighbour's energy bills for years

PA

The retired midwife rarely cooked at home and turned her heating off during the winter months in a bid to save money.

Ms Stenner said she went into a “numb phase that nobody is believing you and nobody is listening” as she struggled to sort the situation out.

Despite becoming a “bit obsessive about switching everything off all the time”, her bills kept rising.

Ms Stenner’s case was raised in the House of Commons and MPs heard the breast cancer survivor had been paying the energy bills of a family-of-four next door for much of the six years she had lived in the flat.

The problem was finally identified this summer, which showed her meter was crossed.

However, it took another 14 weeks for further necessary changes to be made.

Labour’s Afzal Khan, who represents Ms Stenner as the MP for Manchester Gorton, said no vulnerable person “should be going to bed cold at night” while Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt condemned the “appalling situation”.

ScottishPower has apologised for the “issues and distress” experienced by Ms Stenner, adding it was “unacceptable and falls far below the level of service we aim to provide”.

The energy supplier said any overpayments and compensation would be considered as the company recalculates the account.

Ms Stenner said: “It’s been frustrating, not to be heard, not to be listened to, it’s damaged me financially, my life has probably been on a bit of a hold because I’ve done a lot of things, but more than that it’s the wider issue of company policy, inefficiency, bad training, bad management.”

Ms Stenner moved into the flat in 2016 but said the error became more obvious in 2018 and 2019 due to a hike in her bills after a neighbouring family moved in.

Recalling dealing with the issue, she said: “You’re just not thinking logically. I’m used to fighting battles in the NHS, I’m used to defending women, I’m used to all sorts of issues, but personally, I didn’t realise it at the time but, as they say up here, that did my head in.”

Ms Stenner said it feels as though a weight has been lifted from her shoulders, saying of the experience: “I’ve gone past crying, I’ve gone past shouting, you just go into a numb phase that nobody is believing you and nobody is listening, what am I going to do.

“But fortunately, which I should have done sooner, once my daughter was involved with her partner, they just took things in hand and that’s where we are today.”

She added: “It’s been a bit of a marathon and I’m very grateful to everybody, but I just hope there’s a possible wider implication that my case could be a positive help for other people.”

Gas hob

Judith Stenner rarely cooked at home to try and save money on her energy bills

PA

Ms Stenner’s daughter Semra Kurutac said it had been “a little bit of a whirlwind” since her mother’s case was raised in Parliament. She thanked Mr Khan and his team for their “wonderful” help.

Ms Kurutac, who lives in Wiltshire, said: “Mum’s had electricians round to check her appliances in her flat, she’s even gone and got a new immersion heater installed that we now know was completely unnecessary.

“But in the winter months her bills last year got up to just over £400-a-month and we calculated – we’ve been taking readings ever since we got involved in April – that her bills, including standing charge, shouldn’t be much more than £80-a-month based on her current usage.”

Mr Khan said: “Judith has been treated terribly, and gaslit for years on the cost of her utilities.”

He added: “I believe energy providers should be working for their customers, but it feels too often they are working against them. The entire sector needs to get its act together.”

A ScottishPower spokesperson said: “We’re really sorry about the issues and distress experienced by Mr Khan’s constituent, which is unacceptable and falls far below the level of service we aim to provide.

“Since we visited the property and identified the crossed meter issue at the start of the summer, we’ve been working with the other energy supplier involved – who also had to take certain actions – to get this matter sorted as quickly as possible.

“We’re now at the point where we will be able to accurately calculate the constituent’s actual energy usage and costs and we are in touch with her directly and with Mr Khan’s office.

“We apologise again that it has taken longer than we would have liked to resolve this matter.”

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