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I feel my Direct Debit review is totally unfair, why has it increased?

  • 28 March 2019
  • 43 replies
  • 1081 views

Has anyone else had a continual ongoing battle with ovo to try and stop endless price increases? so far my 'fixed rate' dd payments have increased from £76 pcm to their current estimate of £293 pcm... for a small 3 bed semi!!! any suggestions about how to prevent my impending bankruptcy at the hands of ovo energy? TIA.
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Best answer by Darran_OVO 29 March 2019, 15:06

@victsandy to be fair that's a pretty big hike. I don't have the details of your specific account, so it would be worth checking your account balance in MyOVO.

For example, if you have any debt on your account, we would take this into consideration when working out a Direct Debit review, to ensure you are paying enough to cover your usage and any debt for the remainder of your contract.

It would also be good to know if you have been giving us regular meter readings, and whether you have had a Direct Debit review previously?? We find sometimes, if a customer hasn't given readings, we've had to estimate your usage, which might not then match your actual usage. Also if a customer lowers their Direct Debit payment, after we've increased it, that can cause debt to build up as you are not covering your usage, and at some point, we'd need to review it again and increase to prevent you getting into more debt.

If you could check your account and let us know, it would be a big help in trying to get to the bottom of this for you.

Darran
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43 replies

OVO have just forced me to increase my DD from £65 to £76pm for no apparent reason but yours is on a different planet!!! £293 pcm has got to be a mistake ...... unless you have everything on all of the time. I suppose you could tell OVO to look into your billing charges and that if they don't you'll ask the Ombudsman to look into it for you.
Thanks for your response...I did go thro the Ombudsman and sadly got nowhere; left feeling that they were firmly on the side of the providers 🙄 the blame has been placed on my previous provider which is a tad ludicrous...hard to know where to turn other than seeking legal advice. It's such a game ☹️
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@victsandy to be fair that's a pretty big hike. I don't have the details of your specific account, so it would be worth checking your account balance in MyOVO.

For example, if you have any debt on your account, we would take this into consideration when working out a Direct Debit review, to ensure you are paying enough to cover your usage and any debt for the remainder of your contract.

It would also be good to know if you have been giving us regular meter readings, and whether you have had a Direct Debit review previously?? We find sometimes, if a customer hasn't given readings, we've had to estimate your usage, which might not then match your actual usage. Also if a customer lowers their Direct Debit payment, after we've increased it, that can cause debt to build up as you are not covering your usage, and at some point, we'd need to review it again and increase to prevent you getting into more debt.

If you could check your account and let us know, it would be a big help in trying to get to the bottom of this for you.

Darran
HI Darren,
I have a smart meter. I would very much like it to be checked.
Thanks for your response,
Vicky
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Hey @victsandy thanks for your quick reply, could you please check your account balance and confirm if you are in credit or debt? That will help us understand what's going on here.

It's good to hear you have a Smart Meter, as that should have been sending us readings each month so we've been able to record what you've been using.

As I mentioned Direct Debit increases are usually due to the amount you are paying per month, not actually covering what you are using so if you can check your account, that will help us narrow down what's going on.

Darran
Victsandy

I live in a medium sized 3 bedroom semi with storage radiators for heating and no gas appliances.
My monthly Direct debit is £164 and I am advised to increase this to £205 so your recommended increase does seem excessive, Unless you have a lot of debt with OVO.
Or you are on a variable tariff.

I asked "My Ovo" several times by email and phone why the Direct Debit requirements varied with monthly regularity and eventually received this reply;

"Thank you for taking the time to email us today and thank you for taking the time to speak over the phone. As discussed, the meter read issue will be looked at and resolved after the engineer has been out and has done some tests. In regards to the Direct Debit, My OVO will always give you a recommended Direct Debit amount that will change all the time based on your balance, the time of year + weather conditions etc, it is however just a recommendation, If your payments are drastically too low at any point we will email you asking you to have a look at your payments. "

I suggest you take and keep regular meter readings so that you can work out a pattern to you electricity usage and then will be able to make predictions about future usage.
Also check your Usage Charts for previous months to see what pattern they may indicate.
Then work out what you think future costs will be.
I have also been increased direct debit from 62 to 89! For some strange reason and they have not updated my account as im 46 in credit... I also have a smart meter and. Only. Spending average 40 a month.
Not. Happy with ovo
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Hey @jassoi we don't usually look at customer direct debit amounts if they are in credit. I'd like to take a look at this so have sent you a private message to get some info.

Darran
New customer - allocated to OVO when Economy turned over. First electricity bill in and getting message about how existing DD inadequate vs forecast usage and recommending a 45% increase (from £124 to £180). Whilst I think it might be likely there will need to be an increase, I am unable to adjust the amount to anything other than the £180 OVO recommends, even though the figure appears in an inviting box from which you can delete the default recommended figure.

Why do you not permit a flexible (ie customer chosen) amount for the change in DD?

I've read the explanations about how the DD is calculated (though the assumptions about energy use are the variable factor about which we might disagree and is why I would want to pay a different amount to what OVO recommends), but I am perplexed why OVO states that the balance needs to be "zero" at the end of the contract - why does OVO assume I will clear off to another supplier at the end of whatever period I originally signed up for? It doesn't say much about your confidence in being a competitive energy supplier. Instalment payments (ie Direct Debit) needs to be in balance with costs incurred over the long term, not over a possibly artificially shortened period dictated by the duration of the energy supply contract to which customers are currently signed up.
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Take a look at the best answer, @Sparky70, this should help explain why we need to increase the Direct Debit (DD).

If the suggested amount isn't affordable, we can look at other options. The lowest we could set the DD would be £163 - if this still wasn't affordable we'd need you to get in touch with our Collections team on 0800 0699 831 they're available Monday-Thursday 8am-8pm, Friday 8am-6pm and Saturday 9am-2pm. You can also email them on collections@ovoenergy.com.

We don't assume you'll leave to another supplier, but your contract will come to an end and it needs to be paid up to date regardless of whether you renew with us.
So, failing to answer the question - is that how you operate? Economy were rubbish (and, hey, they crashed): Are you looking to go the same way? Here are some numbered points to help comprehensive response:

  1. As I stated, I fully get how you say you calculate the direct debit payments; I don't need to be directed to the explanation again. In doing so, you have ignored the subsidiary point that the DD calculation is an estimate made by you, which is therefore subjective and might very well (very frequently, to judge by comments on here) be at variance with what the customer thinks.
  2. I haven't said the "recommended" DD amount is unaffordable - that is your assumption. The context is a notice from you that the existing DD amount is not enough and that you want a specified sum more. However, I do not want to pay money to you that just builds up a credit balance to your benefit, which is better continuing to benefit me in my own bank account. I refer you to the point above.
  3. You concede that you could be flexible about the amount of the DD, yet have not answered the question about why the on-line account management facility does not allow a figure other than your recommended (or, of course, a higher) figure to be set.
  4. You introduce a new consideration: Your "recommended" DD figure requires the customer to select "Go ahead". If I do not, does that mean you have to continue to take the existing DD amount? That would be cutting off your nose to spite your face, given you are not allowing customer-controlled DD variation. If there is genuine underpayment likely over the contract, that might also cause customer hardship at the end. Or will you simply impose the new amount if I don't eventually click on "Go ahead", for my own sake? That sort of paternalistic, remote corporate action would cast a shadow over your shiny customer-friendly image, wouldn't it?
  5. Lastly, is there not a distinction between being in a contract and the tariff on which electricity is supplied? Customers are able to switch tariffs from the same provider - you even offer an overview of available (cheaper) tariffs (if any) on the front page of your bills. I might well switch tariffs if you offered one to my benefit, but why would I necessarily end my contract with you? Obviously, that might happen if there was a better deal from another company available, but I again say it is extraordinary that you go about your business on the assumption that your customers will depart at the end of the tariff/contract they are tied to with you. That is an attitude problem.
Good evening Sparky70 and welcome from a kindred spirit. I too would like to see an answer to your questions instead of the frequent irrelevant waffle from the company "Standard Replies" book. If they request PM communication please ask them to publish the reply on the open forum so we all can read it.
When I signed up with OVO I provided my previous annual consumption (which has been fairly constant for the past many years) and they calculated a a direct debit monthly amount of £164. So I budget for this amount for the next twelve months. Now I am faced with almost monthly advice from OVO to increase this to over £200 per month to cover my anticipated increased consumption. I have electrical heating (storage radiators) which is switched off for several summer months and no air conditioning equipment in my 3 bedroom semi. I am at a loss to understand why and they do not provide a formula for calculating the proposed increase in direct debit which they are now going to enforce.
Which incidentally seems to conflict with their advice detailed in my previous posting. (1 month ago)
I feel that their concern that I might be in debt at the end of my twelve month contract could be more of a worry for them than for me. No company likes outstanding debt. I worked in the electricity supply industry and we went through a period when there was a current account cash flow problem and we had to use every means possible to collect in money from the customers (they were called consumers in those days) to keep the business going.
So Sparky70 I look forward, but not with much hope, to seeing detailed replies to the questions you have raised.
Grandfather Maxwell
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Hey @Sparky70, I'm sorry you feel like your question has gone unanswered, I'll do my best to address all of your points.

You're right reviews are based on estimates of what you'll use over the course of a year, so sometimes we may recommend an increase even if in credit. This can be the case in the summer, when you are using less and building up a credit, but we anticipate the higher usage over the winter.

The estimations are based on usage history in the property, so the more meter readings we have, the more accurate we can estimate the Direct Debits, if you are providing regular readings, or even better have a smart meter with us your recommended increase will be inline with your annual usage.

We can not hold onto your credit when you have a fixed plan with us, we only stipulate that one months credit on the balance remains, if there a surplus you are free to request a refund at any point. You can find more details here.

If we were to allow customers to set their Direct Debit to an amount of their choosing, the potential is there for debt to build, this wouldn’t be in the best interest for us or the customer.

We will always recommend a Direct Debit increase prior to us automatically increasing the payment, if you do not adjust your Direct Debit in line with recommendation, we will adjust it after several communication attempts.

When you are in a fixed plan with us, your online account will not detail available plans to switch to within OVO this is because you are in a contract. We have to detail all plans available that may be of benefit to you this is stipulated by OFGEM. In order to remain transparent we have to notify customers of the rates available at the end of your tariff so that the customer can make an informed decision when deciding whether or not to renew.

I hope this clears things up, @Grandfather Maxwell, please take a look at my response.
Good afternoon Sparky70 and also good afternoon Amy.
I shall be interested to see any comments you have on the reply to your questions but to me it seems like the policy of company first and customer second. I can accept this as modern company practice so long as they do not play the "Wonderful Customer Service" card too often.
Incidentally, I have been on my present tariff with them since mid December last so I am a bit confused with their "annual usage" comment.
I did give them my annual usage amount prior to them stating what my initial direct debit payment should be. This was based on their meter readings for the previous twelve months. But I digress.
Grandfather Maxwell
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Hi @Grandfather Maxwell,

When you switch suppliers, your previous energy company will give the new one your annual averages so we can make these estimations as accurate as possible. These figures are called your EAC (estimated annual consumption) for electricity and your AQ (annual quantity) for gas.

You're right - when you sign up to us to begin with we don't have access to this so we require the customer to give us as much information as they can about their usage, including some figures if you have them.

Hope this helps!
It seems a pity that this topic has gone cold as I am still confused about the way OVO calculate the recommended Direct Payments especially for June 2019. Please refer to the attached chart which shows the Recommended Minimum Direct Debits with six variations for June.
Earlier in May I received an email from OVO informing me that they were increasing my D D payments as I had not responded to their advice to increase my payments. When I objected to this they put a two month hold on reviews of my payments hence my confusion about their list of recommendations.
My advice to any who read this is to keep a regular check on your usage and challenge all recommendations they give as their algorithms for calculating the payments leave a lot to be desired and bare no relation as to whether one has a positive or negative balance.
My consumption in previous years has been around 16,000 kWh for which OVO advised a monthly Direct Debit of £164 when i signed my latest contract with them.

I was wondering why my direct debit review has increased the amount by £5 to make £105 since Ovo recommend I should only pay £10?
I keep overpaying on purpose as I find a regular payment more suitable to keep my finances in check, I have a large positive balance due to overpaying so why increase it?
I have stayed with Ovo for quite a few years now and even suggested them to others but I don't understand this review increase!
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We look at a few different factors when suggesting a Direct Debit amount, @Grandfather Maxwell, it's not just the annual consumption figures. We also take into account seasonal changes, so what your future usage might be like. The main aim of a Direct Debit review is to leave you with a £0 balance at the end of your contract.

Take a look at this topic for more info, @gvw!
My dear Eva; what an interesting reply.
Could you possibly explain what "seasonal changes" one may expect between the 7th. and 10th. June to explain a difference of £289 in the recommended direct debits?
Also I think you should add to your conditions for setting up direct debits that the reason for them is for there to be "£0 balance at the end of the contract" and not to spread the payment costs over a 12 month period. Hence the advice / necessity for regular changes to the amount paid. Similar to what one might expect with monthly billing.
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Hey @Grandfather Maxwell, I'll do my best to explain.

The reviews are based on estimates of what you'll use over the course of a year, so sometimes we may recommend an increase even if in credit.This can be the case in the summer, when you are using less and building up a credit, but we anticipate the higher usage over the winter.

The fact that your spreadsheet shows a jump in your annual consumption, would allude to me, that there has been an increase in usage in the home based on the readings you have provided. That teamed with the debit balance at that time is reflected in the recommended increase.

The estimations are based on usage history in the property, so the more meter readings we have, the more accurate we can estimate the Direct Debits.

When joining as a new customer the best way to ensure that the initial quote is accurate, would be to enter your postcode and your usage, your initial recommend Direct Debit was based on the information you provided. If your usage is as you advised upon sign up, the month in advance payment would ensure you are at a 0 balance at the end of your contract. The buffer of the advance payment would also cover winter usage and the monthly payments advised would cover your usage.

I hope this clears things up! ☺
My dear Amy, Thank you for the very detailed reply which to me seems to just reiterate the standard replies OVO gives to those who query the recommended price increases for their Direct Debit Payments.
It failed to answer the simple question about what variances could take place within five days in June to justify the £289 alteration in my Direct Debit payments.
Incidentally the increase in consumption shown on the spread sheet are based on OVO assumptions not on any increase in my usage.
However I feel that my replies are becoming a one man rant about the inability of OVO to explain the reasons for the recommended increases in your customers' direct debits and are not in the spirit of a forum where others should show interest in the topic.
So thanks for what you and the other moderators have done but I suggest you close this topic down and remove "Solved" from the heading.

Grandfather Maxwell
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It's a shame to hear you feel our answers are standardized, @Grandfather Maxwell, I can assure you they aren't.

I'm sure you can appreciate without us being able to look into your account, it is difficult for us to get a full idea of whats going on. I can see an increase in the recommendation from the 7th to the 10th of June of £28, going from a recommendation of £389 to £417, I'm not sure where the £289 alteration comes in.

Please get in touch with our team, they'll be able to look into this in more detail, you can send us a message on Facebook, Twitter or email the team on hello@ovoenergy.com.

Thanks!
My Dear Amy,
Thanks for the reply.
It was the team on hello@ovoenergy.com who suggested that I join this forum. (I asume they had had enough of my messages covering crossed Economy 7 registers on the smart meter; faulty meter readings and confusing recommendations about direct debits.)
Attached are two extracts from "My energy account" which illustrate the £289 difference.

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That certainly doesn't seem right that we'd be suggesting a lower Direct Debit if your account has a negative balance. Did anything change between these two screenshots, @Grandfather Maxwell ?
My Dear Nancy,


Thank you for your reply.
As I have previously suggested because so few are now interested in the recommended increases to Direct Debits this topic may have become exhausted for ideas, help and useful suggestions. I was almost quite content to let my involvement cease until after reading your comment, "That certainly doesn't seem right that we'd be suggesting a lower Direct Debit if your account has a negative balance.", I read the recommendation for my Direct Debit in My energy account on 26th. June.
May I refer you to the two attachments of My energy account for 21st and 26th June 2019; the latter showing an even further decrease with my account still being negative.
Please suggest to management, as I have advised on several occasions, that they review and upgrade your IT system and then I shall rant no more.
Grandfather Maxwell

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