back to article Gas bill climbed £13,000 after correct online reading given

Reg Reader and Stockport dweller Rob was shocked to find that trying to save his mother a few pounds on her gas bill ended up pushing the tab up £13,088.43, rather than down the 20 quid he was expecting. It was the unlikely result of entering a meter reading on Southern Electric's website. Utility companies have a patchy …

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  1. SuperTim

    Not just software stupidity.

    last year an accuread man took a meter reading from my meter (i had to fill in a card because I was apparently "out" when he came round, despite me hearing the card come through and my car being on the drive, and him having to walk past the gas meter). I filled the card with the correct readings, and the meter reader then duly entered completely different ones on his little device when he could be bothered to actually turn up and read my little card. I got a £3000 bill, and it then took several calls to e.on before one of them looked at the numbers and suggested that it was a little "unusual" to use that much energy in a month. I noted they were very keen to get a correct reading this time around though (entirely coincidentally my bills will be going up by 15% or so, so they will be sure that any overestimate was nullified before the rise).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be fair...

    I've always found Southern Electric to be a dream to deal with. Far, far better than those ars*h*les at British Gas.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Far, far better than those ars*h*les at British Gas.

      Retard brigade down at British Gas high command decided to merge my previously separate electricity and gas accounts. Their website now requires I enter *both* meter readings or it fails with a validation error.

      My electricity meter is in the house, my gas meter is is in an inaccessible locked box outside.

      /facepalm

    2. Florence

      That would be the same British Gas who managed to switch MY supply after my neighbour gave them the wrong flat number... cue shock billing with my existing provider who based my final bill on an estimate.

      1. Ed

        And...

        And the same British Gas that managed to take over £400 in advanced direct debit in 3 months and saying I had to wait 8 months before they'd adjust how much money they were taking each month. That could easily have meant that they had over £1000 of my money. Hardly worth it for saving the 5% or whatever it was for using Direct Debit.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ... who said it must only be an online account, then deleted my account and said I was going to a more expensive tariff. They said I hadn't used the account so it had timed out -- even though I'd put my meter readings in the month before.

      Or maybe it was because I didn't use one of their many domains that they use (scottishpower.com, spenergy.com, scotishpower.fb.lumacentral.addemar.com, scottishpower-online.co.uk, ...). I can't remember now which of these I should keep using lest I'm deemed not to be an Internet (note the capital) user.

      Muppets.

  3. David Harper 1
    FAIL

    It's not just Southern Electric

    It's not only Southern Electric whose web-based meter reading system can't cope with actual readings that are lower than the company's estimated reading.

    A couple of months ago, I tried to enter my own gas meter reading into Scottish Power's web site. It was 20 units lower than the estimated reading on the bill I'd just received, and Scottish Power were proposing to raise my monthly payment by a hefty amount based on their estimate, so I was keen that they should get the true reading.

    Their web site refused to accept my reading. It told me twice that I'd made a mistake, and on the third attempt, it told me to expect a call from their customer service department.

    After waiting for several days, I called Scottish Power myself, and a friendly customer service person was happy to enter the correct reading. I suppose I should be glad that they didn't try to bill me for 10,000 non-existent units of gas!

    1. Robert Harrison
      FAIL

      I had a similar story with Scottish Power. I had the usual quartely 'your meter readings are due' email reminder. Logged in to Scottish Power and noticed that the previous meter readings were unusually low (in the 00's) instead of around the 7000 mark. Turns out the previous reading was supplied by someone who turned up to read the meter.

      I thought nothing of it and entered the correct readings. Scottish Power's website then proceeded to tell me that I owed them £9000. Of course you are then locked out from supplying any different readings for that day. Rang customer services, on hold for 30 minutes! (Argh) and was told politely by the operator that she was also locked out of editing my account. However, to her credit she at least rang me back 15 minutes later to say she'd had a word with her supervisor and managed to correct everything. Although she did say check the follow up bill and call them back if there were any problems. I notice this becoming more common practice these days, get the customer to do the work that the service/utility provider should be doing themselves and not allowing to happen in the first place.

  4. Fuzzysteve

    Had this happen to me

    with Scottish Gas.

    Hardly a big problem. Gave them a call and was assure I wouldn't be billed that much. And I wasn't.

  5. Andy Taylor
    FAIL

    Idiots

    Is it even possible to go "round the meter" within 14 days in a normal sized house?

    Would it not be better to prevent you from entering a lower figure and then directing you to call?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I tried this...

      Disconnect the gas pipe just as it comes out of the meter and let it free-flow. In reality it turns out the meter stops working after the third explosion on day 2.

      1. Velv Silver badge
        Boffin

        It takes 10p-20p worth of gas to blow up your average sized house - hardly going to make the wheels of the meter rotate at a blistering speed.

        But I like your sarcasm!

        1. thejackle
          Thumb Up

          Only 10 to 20p....

          Wow, that's great value. I can think of where I'd like to spend a couple of quids worth.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Only 10p or 20p

          As the Joker said:

          "I like dynamite, and gunpowder...(...) And gasoline! Do you know what all of these things have in common? They're cheap!"

          Apparently gas is cheap too.

    2. Mike Dimmick
      Mushroom

      One million cubic feet

      One unit on an older gas meter is 100 cubic feet according to http://www.gas-guide.org.uk/meters.html . 10,000 units would be one million cubic feet.

      The average home floor plan is reportedly 91 square meters, which is about 980 square feet. Allow ten feet of height (which is more than adequate!) and you get something like 10,000 cubic feet in an average property. So a wrap-around on the meter would completely fill 100 average properties.

  6. Bob Dunlop
    FAIL

    Plenty of time to pay

    Well Southern Electrics Feed-In-Tariff meter reading page was down altogether when I tried it 6 days ago, had to email the reading in.

    They give you just a 5 day window to submit the reading and then say "We aim to make your payment within 65 working days after receiving your readings" so 13 weeks.

    If that's their terms when they owe you money I guess it only fair we apply the same terms when we owe them.

    1. Andus McCoatover
      Windows

      65 "workin' daze" . That's 3 months in 'real numbers'

      You're having a fuc*king laugh!

      OK, Keep the recieipt for the payment, wait 6 months for the bailiffs to turn up, when they do, present them with the receipt.

      They pay their expenses. Might dissuade them a bit.

  7. Richard 31
    Paris Hilton

    Lots of gas?

    So if you have a meter reading of say 1000, and then over the course of a billing period manage to use 10001 units, your meter ought to read 1001, would you only be charged for 1 unit of gas?

    Time to put the gas on ultra!

    I suppose to make it less suspicious you should use 10400 units or something similar.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Would it even be physically possible to get 10,001m^3 of gas through your meter in three months?

      1. 142
        Boffin

        Strangely...

        According to google, domestic UK gas meters have a max flow rate of 6m^3/hour.... which means, the answer would appear to be "yes"...

        1. Onid
          Mushroom

          always wondered ...

          if possible to compress gas through some gas safe compressor unit and would resulting liquified gas be the same as LPG that cars run on ...by that could probably reset meter!!!

          Solves everything..... run a gas generator for power, plug said generator into grid instead of photovoltaics on roof and not only not pay but actually make money from feed in tariff... hhhmmmm....

          and finally run car and not pay for all that stupid tax on the fuel....

          1. Pete B

            LPG <> LNG

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        of course it is....

        weallgetgascheaperwhenweconnectourhousestogether.com

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hmmm

        My gas-meter's in cubic feet...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Joys Of User Friendly Automation

    Couple of big phat phails there. Communications phail. Behind-your-back game-changing phail. Customer expectation phail. And so on, and so phorth. At least they're promising (after the victim done and gone public) to not actually demand the customer pony up for their greedy stupid stuff, but of course with a company full of phailure like that, everyone else'll be thinking "we'll believe it when we see it".

    As a prudency measure, just how likely the gas meter has run up to 9999, back to 0, and up to slightly under the estimate, eh? It's unlikely even if it's below the previous estimate (if that was an estimate), so it's hardly reasonable to set your own estimates in stone. Inviting the customer to get stung with an outrageous bill in the name of customer friendlyness is just that more icing on the cake.

    The worst thing is, of course, that it's entirely avoidable. A couple seconds thought, playing "what if" scenarios, and if that's too hard (and what're you still doing playing developer, or worse, project manager for this customer facing project, eh?), there are rich online resources with lots of discussion. A good one is the old RISKS list (or digest), and its archives. I'd read it more often if it wasn't so depressing. Pretty sure these peeps have earned their mention there, too.

    1. Hugo Rune
      WTF?

      Is the f on your keyboard phucked?

      1. 404 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        HA!

        Made me laugh = Upvote!

        I didn't even scan - figured just another pretentious phuck and moved on.

        1. Sarev

          He's got a typing liphp.

  9. Jon Press

    Communications protocols...

    ... have the same issue when their sequence numbers wrap.

    Only they don't break.

    Or at least not since the ARPANET crash of 1980.

    If Southern really expect their customers to wrap their meters within the space of 2 weeks then they must be losing an awful lot of money through quarterly billing.

  10. Still Water
    FAIL

    Just, huh? If that's a feature, then the person who designed it needs to have a severe re-think. Sure coping with the 99999 roll-over might have a little bit of logic, but when you're in the 13000s, it's rather unlikely...

  11. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Even if she had used all that

    I bet she was still cold.

  12. Mike Dolan
    WTF?

    Umm - my meter (replaced with a brand new one last year) actually has 5 digits before the decimal point. So this makes no sense? Yes, loop at 100,000 - but not at 10,000. Methinks there could be more to this than the explanation given?

    1. Ian Ferguson

      Mine only has four digits, and that's fairly common, especially with older meters. Your newer one probably has more digits precisely because of this issue.

      1. ChrisC

        Metric vs Imperial

        Metric meters increment 2.83x faster than imperial ones (m^3 vs 100's of ft^3), so adding an extra digit to metric meters also means they'll not wrap-around any sooner than an imperial one given the same volume of gas flow.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        "Your newer one probably has more digits precisely because of this issue."

        Possibly, but since the 4 digit wrap-around corresponds to a £13,000 bill, I'm inclined to think that 4 digits is already sufficient to avoid ambiguity.

        Perhaps the modern trend for not bothering to read meters means that the interval between *reliable* readings is now an order of magnitude longer than it used to be.

  13. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Perhaps they were factoring in anticipated ...

    potential fuel rate increases.

    The utility hikes in Britain are highway robbery.

    Other suppliers look up historical consumption patterns and if there is a variance outside certain limits the account is flagged for human intervention.

    1. David Neil
      Unhappy

      Scottish Power don't

      With last years cold spell my daily electrical useage spiked at 65Kwh - about 2.5 times normal. Got to love the rotten storage heaters my landlord has fitted :(

      At the same time my fixed price deal came to an end and it was a month before I clocked on.

      The didn't call me, but I did get a nice message when I entered my meter readings that my monthly direct debit was going from £40 per month to £106, some haggling got it down to £90, but I'm seriously considering moving somewhere warmer - ideally with no snakes though

  14. Eddie Edwards
    Happy

    Funny, EON wrote to me when their meter reader made a balls up (instead of reading 05454 or whatever, he'd read 15454). They didn't state the amount, they just said "mind checking your meter reading and giving us a call, you're due a large bill and we want to make sure it's right". Much better than the heart attack of receiving a 5-figure bill.

    I ended up figuring out how much gas they reckoned I'd used, and it was half a gasometer's worth. You'd have thought they might have noticed that much gas going missing ...

    Apropos of nothing, does anyone else find Chrome crashes with regularity *only* in the Register's comment form?

  15. DrDGCC

    DrDGCC

    I can't quite beat that that - but I once got an estimated bill of about £11,400 from Powergen... http://www.dcelano.f2s.com/photo_s.php?image=12

  16. Andus McCoatover
    Joke

    Nah.

    Rob's mom was obviously running an iron smelting foundary in her garden shed, and not declaring the profits to HMRC. Stands to reason...Evidence abundantly clear. (Well, clear enough for British plods).

    1. Velv Silver badge
      Coat

      Iron smelting foundaries tend to generate a lot of steam as you cool the steel, which makes them difficult to hide. You can stick up a Leyllandi hedge but people tend to notice huge plooms of white vapour, and consequently HMRC know where 80% of the foundaries are.

      More likely to be some furuistic advanced fractional cracking process splitting the methane into carbon for the production of man-made diamionds and the hydrogen for sale to all the Honda Clarity owners in Stockport (although I'm guessing a quick check of the DVLA records would show up an illegal hydrogen production facility).

      1. Andus McCoatover
        Windows

        Thanks for the downvote, Velv.

        'Nuff said, by not spotting the joke icon...Yeah, take yer coat.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          eh?

          Just because someone comments doesnt mean THEY downvoted you. I dunno. These yunguns nowadays.

  17. Mark 65

    Muppets

    Not only the biggest logic fail I've ever witnessed, given they have prior history on the user's account in order that they could do the estimate, but they even felt the need to state that they wouldn't actually be charging £13k - no shit, that'd be illegal. Utter muppets.

  18. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
    Boffin

    Seriously

    Gas_used = min(New_Reading - Old_Reading, New_Reading + 10000 - Old_Reading)

    If they can't work that one out, then they have no business running a billing operation.

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      Trollface

      It might look more like this

      SUBTRACT OLD-READING FROM NEW-READING GIVING READING-TEMP-1

      COMPUTE READING-TEMP-2 = (NEW-READING + 10000 - OLD-READING)

      IF READING-TEMP-1 < READING-TEMP-2

      MOVE READING-TEMP-1 TO GAS-USED

      ELSE

      MOVE READING-TEMP-2 TO GAS-USED

      END-IF

      No, I'm not shouting...

      1. Nick Rutland

        Hey, this is a utility bill...

        .. and the code has END-IF's in it? Strugglingly modern, I'd say. (Old COBOL hands will spot what I mean).

      2. Bob. Hitchen
        Boffin

        just find a phucking big storage container

        Then fill the thing with gas until meter goes round clock and back to slightly positive on last reading.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The most obvious test is to assume lower readings than estimated are being entered. If they can't get that right then there is no hope for them.

    And to try to excuse it by some arbitrary time limit on being able to correct the bill, even though it is yet to be paid, just beggars belief.

    Why is it that it seems it's the clowns that make all the decisions these days?

  20. Shaun 1

    I used to work for an electric company

    And I dealt specifically with these problems.

    When a meter read comes in that is either lower or signicicantly higher than the previous read (usually an estimate) the system will accept it but recognise that it is outside the normal consumption threshold for that type of account and would flag it to be manually checked/corrected (usually by removing the estimated read), which all happens before the bill goes out.

    However, as the online page gives an estimated billing amount instantly, the manual adjustments don't get done.

    1. peter 45
      FAIL

      except

      that is exactly what didn't happen

  21. wiggers
    FAIL

    BG fail

    I submit meter reading monthly, to keep estimated bills within the realms of reality. After BG made some system changes it rejected not only online readings but also via their telephone submission system. They then started sending snotty emails telling me to submit readings!

  22. Graham Marsden
    Holmes

    "a useful service for people who...

    "...wanted to give themselves a heart attack!"

    There, fixed it!

  23. Stu Pid
    WTF?

    Here's me thinking I was the only Stopfordian who read El Reg.

  24. Pete the not so great
    FAIL

    Normally they use the meter serial number

    to generate a bill of trillions

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's Y2K to you...

    People never learn the wonders of carry-one digit, be it 2k or 10k.

    Around here the *ELECTRIC* companies usually asked you to draw (YES, *draw*) on the bill where the needles were pointing at, when it was done on paper (only needed when you believed your bill was a tad over the board). When they changed to digital, they asked the number that showed on the *previous* bill, along with the current reading. Mind you, this form was filled by the technician, in front of you.

    Yes, you should have kept a copy of the previous bill, what, didn't you? Shame on you, 'cause we are using our estimate then.

    Then again, the meters wrap around at 1 or 10 million kW/h, and it becomes pretty obvious when the jump happened, being the same meter model for large companies or a home. And there is a visible spinning disk, that goes faster with higher consumption. It is barely noticeable on a home, but it spins like a fan when reading for large companies.

    They just end up knowing when the meter jumped, because the amount that would show up as consumed was more than the entire building or the transformer up on the street corner could ever deliver in two (or ten) years. Many meters still show a preceding zero or two on the last digits...

    I bet they spent *less* money building a larger universal meter that held longer before resetting. For gas, you may change the valve, but you could use the same "hodometer" measuring up to 10.000 or 100.000 m3 before leaping.

    That just shows lack of human supervision in the end.

  26. Your Error Message Here
    WTF?

    How quaint

    Here in Massachusetts, I think they switched the gas, water and electric meters to remote RF read systems, so the various "readers" just drive down the street remotely "reading" everyone's meters, oh, about 20 years ago. They all did so because it's not just more accurate, it's cheaper because one reader-person can read roughly ten times as many meters in a day.

    Maybe Southern Electric should think about joining the 20th Century. (Joining the 21st might be asking too much.)

    1. Arbuthnot Darjeeling
      Happy

      ...cheaper.....

      after you've paid off the cost of all the new meters and their installation. could be quite a long time.

      Outside the business cycle of our utilities companies

    2. David Beck

      Market differs in the UK

      That is to say there IS a market. In MA I expect you have access to gas via exactly one supplier for an area. In the UK you can have access to many. The meters are not changed, just the bills come from a different "retailer". So basically in the MA monopoly system only one company needs to decide to upgrade meters, in the UK free market system, either all companies agree or the govt forces the upgrade by regulation (this is happening).

      1. petur
        Boffin

        @David Beck

        Market differs in Belgium too, but there is only one company that does the meter reading/processing and infrastructure work. Same for electricity....

  27. Daniel 23
    Coffee/keyboard

    @I tried this ...

    You, sir, owe me a new keyboard!

  28. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Should have read the instructions

    "This is our flexible meter reading and bill service. Here you can enter your meter reading whenever you wish."

    The web site is clearly for readings from flexible meters. Most people have rigid meters. Also, only use the website if you want to. If you coerce someone into using the site against their will, you will be charged extra.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. Nick Rutland
    Facepalm

    But it could reasonably be expected...

    ... that a message comes up 'Something a bit odd, here, we need to check'. No?

    Some things should just cope, of course. Check Charlie Simpson's Just Giving page. I'm really impressed that the percentage indicator works. (Having stated that, naturally it won't work properly ....)

  31. misterwh

    Same thing

    Hah, exactly the same thing happened to be last year. I hadn't put in an actual reading all year, so they were going on my estimates, and when I did put in a reading it was not only less than their estimated reading for that quarter, but less than the reading for the quarter before (owing to a new boiler I guess. And me wearing jumpers in winter). I was expecting to owe about £20; the actual amount I owed was -£12; my bill was something in the region of 10 grand. After looking at it for a few seconds and realising it couldn't possibly be correct, I saw the funny side.

  32. mark 63 Silver badge
    Joke

    "Turns out it is down to a weird feature of their website which would put other customers looking to save a few pounds at the same risk of being over-billed by ten thousand odd."

    That'll teach the penny pinching bastards!

  33. tony72

    I don't know too many people who haven't had some sort of major hassle with a utility company. Why are they all so incompetent? I spent some years trying to convince Scottish Gas that since I did not, and never had had gas supply to my flat, that I couldn't possibly owe them the money they claimed I owed them. I eventually allowed one of their blokes to come in and see that there was no gas supply, no meter, no appliances or central heating; his comment - "Well, you must have had it removed." Oh, how I wanted to batter the little ****. That was a good few years ago now, but my blood still boils when I think about it.

    1. Equitas
      Paris Hilton

      Try Scottish Water.....

      who manage to charge for the same water twice .... once on the rateable value and once on the meter which provides the only supply to the building. And who manage to charge for notional water "supplied" to a building with no water supply. And to charge for surface water drainage for buildings where the roof water discharges into soakaways.

      Even Paris isn't that daft.

  34. AndrueC Silver badge
    Boffin

    Last week for a laugh I was trying to find out the hourly rate on the NPower site. I couldn't. There also didn't seem any way to change from one of their products to another. I think it's what's referred to as 'security through obscurity' :)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not fixing the problem!

    Interesting to read that spokesman never mentioned they would fix the problem!

    Which reminds of a computer company who blamed the wrong sort of data being written for a hard drive problem.

    1. Steve X
      Facepalm

      Well...

      Anyone remember the 1200bps modems that used to drop carrier when listing Fortran programs? Turned out that a long series of "C"s generated a bit pattern that the modem didn't like. Of course no-one ever writes long series of "C"s. Except when a Fortran programmer wanted to delimit a comment, and after putting a C in column one, they just held the key down to repeat for

      71 times....

      CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC

      C This is a comment block

      CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC{{}NO CARRIER

  36. malfeasance

    Meter Readings

    Yeah, I get an email through the webs (from Scottish Power) saying it's time for me to give my electricity meter readings...

    So as per my built-in priority system; this was shunted off to long term storage and ignored.

    Then about a month later, I get a phone call on my home phone (I was in a the time) by an auto-dialler asking for a meter reading. Funny thing was, the automated system just put me through to customer services which then couldn't work out that I'd been forwarded their by their own auto-dialler.

  37. Dave 15

    Sackings...

    To me the idiot who came up with this scheme should be sacked for being incompetant and stupid. The guy who programmed it should be ssacked for not questioning the sanity of the idiot who came up with it. The test department who didn't test it and realise it was stupid should be sacked. The CEO who allowed such a garbage piece of rubbish while he is supposedly in charge should also be sacked.

    This way the next time someone doesn't think something through properly they'll not suggest such a stupid thing

  38. Dwayne
    Unhappy

    I actually got billed...

    1. Early days of bill pay - I had my gas bill set up to auto pay but bank bill pay system did not have limits.

    2. Gas man read the wrong number and gas company billing system assumed I had wrapped the gas meter.

    3. Gas company billed me for $7000+ dollars and bank bill pay happily obliged.

    Took two weeks for the gas company to credit my account.

  39. Mike 102

    British gas the same

    I had the same thing this summer wiht British Gas. Estimated it to be somehting crazy like 100K ..

    Obviously this wass because it thought I'd gone round the clock. I phoned them up and they said the system had flagged it for human examination and that it would probably have been sorted out before I ever got a letter....

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It does amaze me

    how complicated utilities companies make it for people t input online readings and get financial information and predictions.

    Perhaps they need some IT specialists to show them how to set up a spreadsheet, receive data from a website securely, and do a projection...?

  41. Fred Bauer
    FAIL

    So, if the estimate was 9998, and you submit an actual reading of 0002 within 2 weeks, they will owe you money? But after two weeks, they will bill you the correct additional amount?

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which is why...

    ... Direct Debit for Energy payments is a *bad* idea.

    Something less drastic happened to me with SE - instead of £60, they'd put £600 - if I was on Direct Debit, that amount would've been taken out of my bank account and no prizes for guessing it would be a week before I saw the money back in the account again.

    In fact, Energy companies have gotten massively lazy, relying far too much on the customer entering their readings, instead of sending a meter reader around to get the correct readings.

    So, we pay a premium amount of cash for a sub-standard service.

    And try get these buggers on the phone, I was on hold for 30 minutes with EDF and the norm is at least 10 minutes.

  43. kevjs
    FAIL

    So Southern go round the clock - not sure if that's better or worse than and EDF which says something along the lines of "there was a problem processing this reading" - all I was trying to do was knock about 5 units off each bill! When you ring up you find that you can't submit a lower reading online.

  44. peter 45
    Flame

    everyone has a story

    I got a quarterly estimated reading on my (late) father's empty house. It was bigger than any bill for any entire year even when he was living there and actually using gas. Any amount of telling them that their estimated reading would have been wrong even if my father was still living there - let alone for an empty property - was met by the entirly predicable response that that was what the computer had calculated, so there was nothing they coul do about it.

    What was a bit more wierd was that if I did not pay the stupidly high ESTIMATED bill, they would take me to court. The only way out of it was to make a special trip to the house to take an actual reading.

    Thanks British Gas.

    1. Peter Johnstone

      You should have let them take you to court, then humiliated them!

  45. Darryl

    So what would've happened

    if it was just ignored? Would she start getting collection letters for £13,000+ with interest?

  46. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    NPower

    Are even worse, their system will do the wrap-around trick even if the lower reading is entered into the system by the official meter reader on his little tablet machine.

    Of course the first I knew of it was when they raised my direct debit payments to £1500 per month.

  47. Greg J Preece

    They're all as bad

    nPower sent me my bill prediction for the next 6 months, based on an "estimate" that always seems to be for a family of 6 in a mansion. I sent them the correct readings, they acknowledged receipt of them, and then....kept my bills exactly the same...

    And then when they overcharge, trying to get the money back is fun. Credit against my account? No mate, cheque in the mail, now.

  48. Refugee from Windows
    FAIL

    Meters

    When I worked for the leccy board, if your meter reading changed by more than 10% they'd schedule you for a meter change.

    As for EDF, well submit your meter readings on line, and then you can try in vain to actually access your bill on line, cos it won't let you register, and they say it takes 2 weeks to reply to their on line enquiries.

  49. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Perfectly standard web design. Can't understand the fuss.

    Now a gas meter with only four digits - *that* is dumb.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RF meters, energy company's IT systems, and other assorted nonsense

    In the UK, the design of the metering arrangements is such that there are a large number of companies that own the electricity and gas meters. These companies may be your supplier, the local distributor, or someone else. As such, although they could be read remotely through some sort of wireless magic, it'd still be horribly inefficient. The solution will probably come with "smart meters" (much as I hate the term), which will have remote collection (probably via GSM) as standard, with the exceptions having manual readings taken as per the current arrangements. This is broadly what happens for large (>100 kW) industrial customers at the moment - they have meter readings taken daily, broken down by individual half hours, to get a consumption profile through the day.

    The software running the meter data collection algorithm was probably specced out in generic terms by someone who understands WTF is going on. In my experience, this is then taken away by a bunch of consultants (including a normally incompetent Business Analyst), and about 30 Statements of Requirements and other assorted nonsense documents will have been produced. As the consultants don't actually understand the electricity or gas industries, they'll have assumed that meter readings can only go up, and can't go down from reading to reading. Therefore, if you enter a reading of 8500 followed by 8498, it stands to reason that you've used 9998 units of gas/power.

    This will, of course, have made it into the SoR that was produced, but as the only people who would spot that error are being required to review hundreds of the damn things on top of their day jobs, and because Cap Gemini, Capita, Logica, and friends tend to operate in a "if you don't make any comments of this document by noon tomorrow, we'll deem you to have accepted it" world, it's not really that surprising that something like that would get missed. As the testers are testing against the SoRs, instead of using common sense, it passes all stages of functional and non-functional testing.

    Oh, and 9998 units of gas is such a ludicrously small amount in terms of the wholesale markets, (where the smallest amount of gas you can buy is 4,000 therms / 117,288 kWh over a 24 hour period), your meter wrapping around would have been a) ignored as noise, and b) wouldn't have been noticed for about 6 months, until the supplier gets round to reviewing the site's capacity.

    Anonymous for obvious reasons.

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