back to article Cambridge woman in £90m 'leccy bill shocker

A Cambridge woman got a bit of a shock on Saturday morning when a bill from 'leccy outfit Npower landed on her doormat demanding an impressive £90,454,217, the Cambridge News reports. Alison Turner, 50, was surprised not only by the colossal total for juice, but also because she's on a pre-pay meter. She recounted: "I shouldn' …

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  1. Martin
    Coat

    Suprised?

    Having worked in the industry I am not surprised that the guy has no idea how the bill was sent out, because the spokes persons for these companys have ZERO idea about the running of the business.

    I'll tell you how it was sent, some numpty in a call/data centre some where would have clicked on the wrong button when arranging for the customers account to be transferred, noticed his error and not bothered noting the account so the cock-up couldn't be traced back to him/her!

    Mines the one that says; "Glad I'm outta that business!"

  2. Dominic Kua
    Coat

    Shocking

    Watt do these companies think they're doing? Current-ly there's not enough punning in this article though. Joule get better ratings with more puns.

    (reasonably priced)Power to the people.

    Mine's the one with the label "Warning: Yield greater than three megapuns"

  3. Eden
    Black Helicopters

    I'm amazed...

    That the rozzers didn't kick the door down looking for the secret terrorist bunker complex/cannabis factory hidden beneath the house as clearly that explains the juice!.

  4. Jamie
    Linux

    Give it 8-10 weeks

    In about that time she should receive another letter stating that they need the money now or they will contact the debt collectors to come around and take her belongings. May sound scary but these things do happen.

  5. Steve

    "We have systems to ensure these errors are not made."

    That is clearly a lie - it did happen so you do not have systems to ensure it doesn't. You may have a system that *attempts* to prevent these errors, but that is not the same thing.

    When I left Npower, I received a final bill about 3 months later and it took me almost another month to convince them that they might want to recalculate it. The reason? The meter reading they claimed to have taken was significantly higher than the meter showed when I received the bill. I had to demand a supervisor before I could get someone to admit that their readings meant I had spent the last quarter generating surplus energy.

    1 month later, a bill of about £150 had turned into a rebate of about £100.

  6. Ian Hallsworth

    A spokesman said: "We have systems to ensure these errors are not made

    Obvisly you dont

  7. Andy Betts
    Coat

    Must've been a shock!

    I'd have said Ohm y god!

    But when they cancelled it it'd be a buzz.

    Watt? Coat? ok...

  8. Dangermouse

    I wish this would happen to me...

    I really do wish this sort of thing would happen to me, because I would love to just ignore the first letter, the second letter, the final demand, the final, final demand and then go to court just to see how far it would go before an actual intelligent human being actually looked at the unpaid amount and think to themselves "perhaps there might be a mistake here".

    Or, in this day and age, that may be asking too much.

  9. Stuart
    Paris Hilton

    maybe....

    she is creating an skeletal flight suit out of her domestic blast furnace to fight crime as iron lady?

    PH as she is as thick as liquid iron

  10. Andy Barber
    Coat

    Ony 67 blast furneses

    As the bill was only for a month, she would only need 670 Blast Furnaces.

    Mines the one with the insulated rubber gloves in the pocket!

  11. ShaggyDoggy

    Npunner

    Npower are clearly suffering from ampered judgement.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    That's right...

    "It's lucky they didn't send this bill to an old age pensioner. Luckily, my daughter was with me when I opened the bill and told me not to worry about it"

    Because all OAP's are as thick as you and may actually think that you really do owe £90m.

  13. David Pollard

    End of their financial year?

    I wonder how this affects their profit and loss account?

  14. Lloyd

    Just told em to stick it

    What with them calculating that there are 7 months in a year and all (and overcharging me by £80 because they decided to change the rules), if any nPower customers out there don't know about the stitch up situation nPower have going on then do a quick Google search. Ofwat are currently (allegedly) investigating but nothing will be done as it's an old boys club with much scratching of backs going on.

  15. bluesxman
    Stop

    cognition?

    To quote the receiver of the preposterous bill "It's lucky they didn't send this bill to an old age pensioner. Luckily, my daughter was with me when I opened the bill and told me not to worry about it" ... I'm a little concerned that, had her level headed daughter not been present to think on her behalf, that she might have taken the bill seriously and would've re-mortgaged her domicile forthwith to make the first payment.

  16. Dale

    leccy?

    Isn't this, or even 'leccy, on the Reg list of banned words along with lappy and mobi? Or shouldn't it be?

  17. caffeine addict Silver badge
    Go

    @Andy Betts

    Sir, I think you just won the intertubes...

  18. Pete

    @shocking

    I'm glad the company did a VOLTe-face and cancelled the bill without much resistance. Before the customer blew a fuse and socket'd it to 'em.

    Wire we're on the subject, maybe now they'll stop pylon on the pain - if they're cable-able of course.

  19. Simon Martin
    Paris Hilton

    Domestic blast furnace?

    How many of El-reg's readers have a blast furnace at home? Not many I suspect.

    Also, is the Blast Furnace the approved unit of consumption? Surely there is a unit based on the number of the number of sheep that can be sheared or similar?

    Paris - because even she could have worked out that the bill was wrong.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    let me guess

    All that work has been off-shored and they don't read or write anglais?

    Alien, cause that's what it's like dealing with.

  21. Gordon Pryra
    Flame

    Luckily, my daughter was with me..

    "Luckily, my daughter was with me when I opened the bill and told me not to worry about it"

    Why? Are you really that stupid that you think you would have to pay it?

    Is the British gene pool that shit now that we really have this low level of inteligence bieng spawned?

    We need to bring in stringent controls on who can breed, screw the people who say that its their right to have 15 kids and live of the back of the rest of society

    Red flames denote the gass chambers for the dumb breeders

  22. Elmer Phud
    Happy

    Downloads

    It's actually the rest of the street that is tapping in to her supply. She's the only one who isn't busy growing aromatic herbs.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @shocking

    Wire they doing this?

    And watt can we do to insulate ourselves against it?

    If I'd got a charge like that I'd be that shocked, I'd switch supplier like lightning.

  24. John Robson Silver badge

    Account number

    Is that charge for the next account number? So are all account numbers after that messed up as well?

  25. dervheid

    Fuckwits...

    just complete, total and utter fuckwits.

  26. John Ferris
    Alert

    You might laugh...

    but one day in the future all monthly bills will be this high.

    We're doomed, doomed I tells yah!

  27. Joe
    Thumb Up

    @ Stu Reeves

    Point well made! My first thoughts exactly.

    Surely the sort of people who's initial thought is that a £90m bill is genuine and not a mistake are better of away from this world? Inflation hasn't quite reached Zimbabwe-levels yet, after all!

  28. David Edwards

    I agree with Dangermouse

    Yes id ignore it and go to court, make them pay costs. Why should we be responsible for informing them of their cock ups.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OHM my goodness !

    Watt was she running , a De Lorean at 88mph ?

  30. Wesley Wakeman
    Happy

    Blast Furnace

    Actually I think it would be 25,000 blast Furnaces. If a blast furnace consumes 1000 units a day for 28 days (okay so not a calendar month) thats only 28000 units. 25,000 x 28,000 = 700,000,000. Not sure where you'd store 25,000 blast furnaces though :)

    Mines the one with the enormous garage or a T.A.R.D.I.S.

    Wes

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That'll teach her

    to leave the hall light on overnight :)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    How much?!

    It should have been pretty easy for the billing system to flag this as wrong. Given that a typical domestic supply will have a 100A main fuse (and usually the meter has a maximum working current of 100A), you are going to be limited to a max of about 550 'units' of electricity per day. To use that much electricity is going to take >3000 years!

    Simple sanity checks of a bill for more than say 5000 units in a billing period (i.e. a quarter), should be flagged for checking would work.

  33. Miami Mike

    Joining the LRA

    Joining the LRA (Luddite Resistance Army) as soon as I can find a pencil and a stamp - they don't have e-mail (duh).

    This has happened to me not once, but THREE times.

    1) Florida Power & Light had just introduced "pay automatically by direct debit" and they were trumpeting it as the best thing since beer in cans.

    I was getting electric bills in the range of $50 a month, FPL sent me a bill for $400. When I called, they said it was a mistake, we'll send someone out to re-read your meter.

    I asked what would have happened if I had signed fro autodebit, would you have taken the $400? Answer; "Yes. But we'd give it back after we investigated it." (And how long does THAT take?)

    2) Had this nasty slum property, financed through Washington Mutual Bank (California). Mortgage was $383/mo.

    Mortgage payment notice arrives - $5,000,000.83 (note the 83 cents!) Holy bupkas, batman! Called so called "customer service" at WaMu, was told they were having computer problems, pay the usual amount. "Oh, and would you like to sign up for autodebit sir?" And if I did, would you have taken the $5,000,000.83 out of my account? Yes. If I didn't have $5,000,000.83, would you charge me a bounced check fee? Yes. OK, go **** yourselves then.

    3) The very next month, Washington Mutual sent a mortgage payment notice for the first payment, the next payment, and the late fee . . . wait for it . . . $43,000,000 plus some change - no Sh*T!!!! I saved the notice. Still waiting to hear from the collection agencies on this one. Slum is sold, property is paid off. Good riddance to it and them (and the dirtball tenants).

    Still want autodebit? Paper checks and stamps are cheap insurance against this kind of problem.

  34. chatterbox
    Boffin

    "We have systems to ensure these errors ARE made."

    My favourite Npower experience was when their meter reader wrote down a 7 instead of a 1 in the thousands column and they put my direct debit way, way up to a level that might have been appropriate if I was a family of five with a monster TV on all the time and a server farm in the attic, but was ridiculous for a single, energy-conscious person like me. I submitted my own meter readings and they rejected them because they didn't believe me. Eventually they sent their own meter reader round and rejected that reading too because their system thought it didn't look realistic. I got them to reduce my direct debit at one point but the next month they put it back up again. After many months it finally got sorted out and I got a refund of £600.

    I have stuck with them but only because the more data they gather about my usage habits, the more likely they are to get it right in future - I hope.

  35. Andy Worth

    Err

    "Luckily, my daughter was with me when I opened the bill and told me not to worry about it."

    So she's saying she'd have taken a £90m+ bill seriously if her daughter hadn't been there then?

  36. Richard Scratcher
    Alien

    £90m? Pah!

    For a real cock-up see British Gas. They sell leccy too and in 2003 they sent a customer a bill for £2,320,333,681,613 ($4.5 trillion).

    See BBC news item http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2818611.stm

    That's enough power to run a Death Star for just over 12 years.

  37. Graham Bartlett

    @Stu and Gordon

    Thank heavens the pondlife-level intelligence seems not to have been passed down the line to her daughter.

    Mind you, living in Cambridge, I can say that there certainly are some right weirdos living round here!

  38. John Stag

    "systems to ensure..."

    How about this:

    if ($customerType == DOMESTIC) and ($bill > 2000) then

    sendForManualConfirmation();

    else

    sendTheBill();

    endif

    That'll be $90m consulting fee please....

  39. kain preacher Silver badge

    Real reason

    She was building a device to get rid her council of stupid people. On that same day unknown to her, they were holding a convention of stupid council people in her home town. The device overload and had a melt down.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @Richard Scratcher

    I am getting about 3Tl/100km on my Death Star so, I figure for $4.5 Trillion, converted at the current rate of exchange between US and CDN, that about $4.5T CDN, and gas at $1.30/l I'd get 14 years of normal use on my Death Star.

    Mines the one with the Death Star keys and cafeteria tray in the pocket ...

    --Pete

  41. Daniel B.
    Joke

    Whoa!

    Hm... seems like she left the Time Displacement Portal on during the night.

    Or maybe the USS Enterprise was charging its dilithium crystals from her power supply?

  42. Fred
    Alien

    @ R Gordon

    Now that ** is ** a legally recognized unit of power usage : )

    Aliens - 'cause who else has death stars ?

  43. Christoph Silver badge
    Flame

    They claim they've cancelled it

    If they have actually cancelled it then they are being remarkably efficient for nPower considering the incompetence they showed when I objected to them inventing a name at my address and transferring my utilities to themselves under that name.

  44. peter
    Paris Hilton

    "We have systems to ensure these errors are not made."

    If only there was some truth to that obvious lie.

    After about 3 years of being with them, I got an quarterly estimated bill that was a bit high. In fact it was more that I had spent in the last three years. I would have ignored it except for the bit that said that they were going to increase my Direct Debit to about £500 per month. Eeeek.

    I tried to explain to Tracy ("I got a GCSE in Domestic Science") at the call centre that their computer is a bit crook and that I was not going to allow them to take £500/month, but the only response was that the "Computer must be right" and that "people use more energy during winter you know". No amount of explaining that the estimate was about 10x bigger that I had ever spent in any quarter in the last three years would convince her that the computer was wrong. I gave a real reading which showed I was actually in credit and her response...... "you must have used less this quarter than you normally do." Sigh.

    Paris......Money.....Maths. You know how to join the dots.

  45. DAN*tastik
    Joke

    I know what happened!

    She had a japanese woman hiding in her closet using an electric blast furnace full blast to dry her long hair!

    And I bet she didn't check her loft

  46. Fred

    SEC -

    SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission in the US) would want to take a look at a company that posted collectables of 180 million USD, then "disappears" that amount, not to mention 4.5 trillion.

    if the numbers sat there over the end of a quarter (or other reporting period) they WOULD affect company valuation. Looks like stock manipulation to me :)

    Does GB have such a an organization - to over see the stock exchange - to remove market manipulation? If so - has this organization looked into any of these companies?

  47. Jimbo
    Paris Hilton

    "We have systems...

    Npower once entered our gas meter reading (c.8000 units) onto our electric account (which had previously stood at over 50,000 units), resulting in us being (by their reckoning) £3,650 in credit. When I questioned a year later why we hadn't received a bill for ages, they explained they didn't bother to send one if we were in credit. Brilliant. (btw I would never advocate people doing this on purpose, then piling the bill money into a high-interest account until such time as Npower discover their mistake...)

    Paris, cos she'd expect to get paid £3,650 before she provided a service.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @Anonymous Coward - "All that work has been off-shored and they don't read or write anglais?"

    Last time I rang npower the call centre staff sounded like Geordies. Is Newcastle officially "off-shore" now? Maybe I ought to put my money there as a tax haven then. On second thoughts that's Northern Wreck's home base isn't it?

  49. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Alert

    The idiots are everywhere.. and they're breeding

    While not in the league of a 90 milion electric bill, my supplier still cant get it right, every time they do an estimated reading its 1000 units/month, the fact I've lived here for 13 yrs, and always use 330-340 units/month for those year has no bearing on them... still cant be as bad as getting an estimated reading and bill because ' the meter guy could'nt get in to read the meter' despite the fact its in a box on the outside of the building..........

  50. Andrew Gore
    Gates Horns

    Same old same old.

    Heard the story before. Let me guess - before she changed, her account number was 90454217. It's happened in New Zealand in almost exactly the same way before now, you'd think somewhere, someone would develop a brain. Fat chance, I guess, in the culture of "the computer is always right"! (to which I respond, when the human screws up, so too does the computer - very simple)

  51. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge
    Dead Vulture

    Come on, you guys

    "It's lucky they didn't send this bill to an old age pensioner. Luckily, my daughter was with me when I opened the bill and told me not to worry about it"

    I didn't read that as "... because he is so stupid he would have paid it" so much as "... because he might have died from shock before he recovered his wits." (Substitute appropriate pronouns as required.) Nice of some of you to assume the worst possible interpretation.

    And I even managed to slip in a pun. :)

    Dead vulture because it had a heart attack when it got the bill for 90,000,000 rotting corpses.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    back-calculating ripoff

    Our annual water charges review always run along the same lines:

    Last year you used about £96 worth of water, when in fact we charged you for £144 based on an arbitrary estimate. So right now we owe you £48 because you were paying by direct debit at £12 per month

    Next year we estimate your water usage will be <complicated calculation of litres of water + sewage charge for removal of same> ... £192. So, taking off the £48 we owe you leaves £144 for you to pay in 12 easy instalments of £12.

    Wow! shock horror and amazement!

    Despite the fact that I use only 2/3 of the water you charged me for, you now estimate I will actually use twice that much next year so that I end up paying you the same amount and keep your pockets lined.

    Ridiculous. The wording that this is an estimate of how much water I will use would easily get past many people, such as pensioners or simply those who don't spend time on these kind of details.

    Every year I have negotiated a reduction in the DD (never as low as it should be) and every year they still try to put it back up through a fictional estimate.

    Our last gas bill is based on the usage between two estimates. The first estimate was already more than the current reading, the second is just a work of pure fantasy. I let it go and paid up at the old price - now that prices are going up I can correct the reading next time and potentially have a near-zero bill. Their problem if they are too lazy to ever read our meter.

  53. Chris Seiter
    Unhappy

    @Boris

    That's happening to me right now. The local power company changed their meters on my house and said that for the last 24 months they had been "underestimating" my usage. They went back through my bills that I had already paid and changed the amount due on them. The total? $5200. They admit it was their fault but want me to still pay. They have yet to send someone out to check the meter manually, even though they are on the outside. I'm almost afraid to make it drag out for fear of the disconnect notices. Stupid monopolies.

  54. Herby
    Coat

    Death Star budget

    "That's enough power to run a Death Star for just over 12 years."

    The gas bill of $4.5 trillion won't run the Death Star for even a couple of years. It takes about $2.5E12 to run the current Death Star. I looked it up myself:

    http://frwebgate4.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate.cgi?WAISdocID=651903316451+1+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve

    You must have a cheaper Death Star in mind.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Thats quite a bit of 'leccy

    I calculate that she must have been running a 1.21GW flux capacitor for 24 days solid!

  56. oldfartuk

    hmmmm

    Once upon a day you could make a device that made your meter runs backwards, very very simple technology..................i suppose so could have had one and overdone it and gone past 0000000.............

  57. Dave

    @Fred - SEC, @AdamV

    Fred:

    That might be true in the US, but we don't have the quarterly nonsense in the UK (half-yearly is more relaxed), and you're assuming malice where (based on past history) it's almost certainly incompetence.

    AdamV:

    It took a long time before our electric company caught up with us in correctly overestimating usage, so we were running a debit for several years. Now they've caught up and owe us money, about to be made worse by the fact that certain events such as firing electric kilns won't be happening again this year so they'll owe us bigtime before they work it out.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Drool Brittania.

    "Luckily, my daughter was with me when I opened the bill and told me not to worry about it"

    So who is no only OAP in Britian who could not batt an eyelid an mere 90million quid?

    Lucky dear Annie was around to set this lady straight.

  59. Bob

    @ Richard Scratcher

    [quote]That's enough power to run a Death Star for just over 12 years[/quote]

    Is that just general running costs or does that include the odd decimated planet?

  60. Mark Fisher

    Even Scarier Error -Gas this time

    I had a far scarier error.....cos the bill COULD have been right...

    I changed gas provider and suddenly my bills seemed to double.

    Phoned them to query it of course but they would not budge.

    Next bill, also big....phone again. Well, they gave me the option of having a calibrated test meter fitted....but if the bill was correct I had to pay for it (several hundred pounds). This scared me off and I just wondered if our consumption had gone up that much.

    After checking old and new bills with a fine tooth comb, I found the problem. I had a new metric meter but they were charging me in imperial units approx. 2.5 times as big - hence the bigger bills. Idiots!

  61. Mad Jack
    Dead Vulture

    This is Business as Usual for NPower

    I was with them once, and I would never use them again nor wish them on anyone else. They are truly a showcase for incompetence which makes even the current government look good.

    First, over a 2 year period they managed to bill me twice for the same supply, based on their "estimates" and they ended up owing me over £2000. It took 18 months to get them to admit their error and refund me.

    A year later (why oh why did I not dump them then?) they send me a bill for £1,400 despite the fact I paid them by direct debit. This took 8 months to sort out, as I insisted on seeing a detailed breakdown of charges. It took a plethora of phone calls and 3 letters, (2 recorded delivery) before they saw fit to respond at all. However, their response was to instruct a firm of debt collectors. I contacted them again, meanwhile raising an official complaint to Energywatch, saying I had no objection to paying any sum owed as long as they could prove it was not yet another error, given the past history on the account. Their response was a letter stating flatly "the account is correct" and a letter from the debt collector saying they would sue me if I didn't pay. Again I wrote to them saying that them claiming that the account was correct didn't prove anything, and repeated for the umpteenth time my request for a detailed breakdown of charges. By now Energywatch had contacted them, and I received a letter from NP offering to knock £500 off the total bill. This seemed to me a pretty hefty amount for an account that "was correct".

    Things however still dragged on, so eventually I said I'd see them in court, and they again upped their offer to wipe out most of the alleged debt, but still no breakdown. I didn't have time to mess about with these fools, so accepted the offer of settlement on the proviso that they close the account and never contact me again. They've already failed the latter, needless to say. I've had their telesales people on several times despite being ex-directory and registered with TPS.

    AVOID NPower at all costs - life is too short. Atlantic energy get my vote however, they actually seem to understand something about customer service!

  62. W Meulensteen
    IT Angle

    With a bill like that....

    They should name a windmill after her - and be tied to the rotor for a few fortnights to reconsider the systems they have in place to show them the IT angle of it all...

  63. Allan Dyer Silver badge
    Coat

    @ Andy Worth (and others)

    "So she's saying she'd have taken a £90m+ bill seriously if her daughter hadn't been there then?"

    No, her daughter is a multi-billionaire, who immediately paid it from loose change in her back pocket.

  64. Richard

    im an n-power customer on a pre-payment meter

    we started getting bills from them last year (despite the prepayment) and they said that they wont bill us, 2 months later we got a letter threatening to take us to court if we dont pay. 3 months ago we got one saying that we are £469.20 in credit.

    straight on the phone to get a refund from them.

    i think n-power need to go over their billing system with a fine tooth comb.

  65. Alan Stiles

    Perhaps...

    She was charging the batteries for the PFY's "Insulation Tester" ?

  66. kain preacher Silver badge

    Mentality

    "Luckily, my daughter was with me when I opened the bill and told me not to worry about it. "

    Its that kind of mentality why we 419 e-mails going around. I know greed is a part of it but if people were able to think and just delete those emails the net would be a better place. Nope we have people like her that think a 90m pound bill could possibly be legit. We are not talking about Bill gates tax bill here.

  67. pctechxp

    @Lloyd - Ofwat

    think you mean Ofgem

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