It’s spring again though you wouldn’t know it judging by the weather. So it’s time for the annual conversation with my electricity supplier. 

Every year at this time they look at my usage for the past six months (winter) and double my direct debit for the next six months (summer). This year I was expecting my monthly repayments to increase as the price per unit has increased; I’ve also used more than usual this winter. 

As things stand my account is £180 in the red. It was £90 in the black at the end of last summer although they credited me £50 at my request – with hindsight it might have been better to leave it given the increase in rates – most winters put me in the red and most summers end with me in the black. In other words I make up my winter overspend with my summer underspend. 

My electricity company usually estimates my summer usage based on my winter usage and hikes my direct debit. I presume they do this with everyone which I think is wrong. Some people will just pay it and suffer as a consequence. The electricity company will accrue the interest until they’re asked to return the money or it’s used up by increased charges. 

This was confirmed to me when I called them. I had been through my last three bills with a fine toothed comb. I had my sums done. I’d worked it out. I had it on a piece of paper to justify my claim that the rise was excessive and I largely based my argument on their own estimate of my projected usage for the next twelve months. I told the operative that they had more than doubled my monthly direct debit from £35 to £72 and that this was a problem. Without any further argument the operative said “okay, I’ll reduce it to £40”. Just like that. Not 60; not 55; but 40. I found myself negotiating up: I know I overspent more than usual and the price per unit has gone up. I’m not stupid. I said I’d pay £45. I had gone into the call expecting to pay 50 which I would have considered reasonable given the unusual circumstances. 

What shocked me was the lack of justification required. It always does. The previous couple of years the operative has said something to the effect of “oh dear that looks like a mistake. I’ll send you an amended bill”. This year he didn’t even do that. You have to ask the question don’t you?