Pricewatch reader queries: My grandson feeds the meter but still gets electricity bills

Plus: complaints about Yourtel lead to ComReg action

John Healy writes to say his grandson has been confronted with a "truly Orwellian situation" when dealing with Electric Ireland. John's grandson is one of five co-tenants in a house in Dublin 6. They all signed the lease on August 10th through a letting agent.

“From day one, their arrangement for electricity usage was that they would purchase from the landlord prepaid cards, which he supplies to them at €12.50 each, and which they use to feed the private meter which he has installed in the hallway. Each prepaid card gives them 50 units of electricity.”

That seems to Pricewatch to be a perfectly sensible situation. And John agrees, describing it as “an ideal arrangement – pay as you go, no running up of electric bills, tailor-made for the permanently impecunious.”

So, all went well “until the bills began to arrive to my grandson, without warning, from Electric Ireland. The bills stopped in October, as if Electric Ireland then realised that a mistake had been made. But they continue to pursue him for €243 from August to October. This in spite of the fact that he was never at any stage a customer of Electric Ireland, never had any engagement with Electric Ireland, never asked or agreed to be a customer, signed no document, made no commitment and authorised no third party to do so on his behalf.”


That’s not good but it should have been easy to resolve, right? No. “Repeated phone calls and emails to Electric Ireland – pointing out quite reasonably that, having paid once for the electricity, he was hardly likely to make himself liable to pay a second time – went unheeded. Of late, Electric Ireland has been turning up the pressure. Written threats of legal action have been followed by menacing phone calls from a debt-collection agency.”

John’s grandson, “while adamant that he owes nothing to Electric Ireland, is understandably concerned at the possible adverse impact all this might have on his future credit rating. Apart from his understandable reluctance to pay on the double for electricity, what I find even more baffling is how Electric Ireland can be entitled to register someone as a consumer without his agreement or consent and, in this case, even without his knowledge? Surely any deal like this should have required a written contract with him? Should there not be some documentary evidence to show how his name is turning up as a debtor of Electric Ireland? Does it mean that I can call Electric Ireland and put down Conor Pope’s name as liable for the electricity to my house?”

Please don’t.

We contacted the company and received the following statement: “In this case, when initial contact was received from the landlord, a rare agent error led to this incorrect account registration.

“The customer in question has been furnished with a full explanation and resolution. For data protection reasons we can only discuss the specific details with the account holder.”

Complaints about Yourtel lead to ComReg action

A reader from Dublin contacted us about Yourtel. This company cold-calls people and signs them up to a service that sees them getting one bill for call charges and one for line rental.

“This is not explained to the customer, and [Yourtel] uses the recording of the call to prove that a contract has been formed. Monthly bills are soon followed by debt collector’s letters, and the psychological effect on OAPs is quite effective,” he writes.

As it happens, this is just one of many queries and expressions of concern we have had in recent times in connection with Yourtel. And we were not alone. Last September, ComReg, the communications watchdog, launched an investigation into the self-styled discount landline operator after getting “a large volume of complaints”.

The investigation culminated last month in a undertaking from Yourtel to write to all its customers going back to June last year telling them they had the right to cancel their contract.

The letter will have to include a cancellation form. If the form is completed and returned within two weeks, the contract will be deemed cancelled. Users will also be able to cancel over the telephone.