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Why was I upgraded to Green Energy without consent?

  • 30 August 2023
  • 10 replies
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Hi all!

I realised today that I was added to Greener Energy scheme back in March despite never consenting to this.

Going back over my emails, I did indeed get an email from Ovo explaining I would be moved to the scheme unless I explicitly opted out. This seems extremely dodgy to me, is it even legal?

Expecting customers to constantly monitor the avalanche of junk mail they get means it’s likely many people will have “accepted” this move without objection.

I want to be refunded for this extra amount I have been billed for. I suspect Ovo are going to be awkward about this. If so, is this something I can take to the Ombudsman?

What are people’s thoughts?

Many thanks!

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Best answer by Abby_OVO 31 August 2023, 12:26

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This is my personal take as a forum volunteer. It should not be treated as coming from OVO.

Hi @purple_swine ,

My answer is that if you ask me, it’s completely above board for the following reasons:

  1. Only those who explicitly chose the OVO Beyond upgrade were migrated - no-one else
  2. Anyone who didn’t have OVO Beyond were not automatically given Greener Energy - merely notified that it was a new thing (assuming they consented to such emails)
  3. Anyone who explicitly opted-out before the deadline were removed from the scheme completely - their OVO Beyond upgrades were left to expire instead
  4. You were notified about the changes upfront and given a chance to opt-out ahead of the launch in a manner that would terminate OVO Beyond rather than migrate you to Greener Energy - whether you read that or not is your choice but OVO can argue that they sent the notice anyway, even if you didn’t read it - doing nothing can be taken as you giving deemed/implied consent to said changes
  5. It’s not OVO’s responsibility to clean up your email inbox - if you’re getting flooded, then it’s probably worth unsubscribing from a few marketing emails and/or closing dead accounts - https://justdeleteme.xyz is a good tool for the latter
  6. No refunds are due - you can opt-out now and future charges would cease (and the upgrade be removed at the end of the current cycle), but you have benefited from the upgrade for six months, so arguably you’ve used Greener Energy for longer than a “reasonable trial period” and OVO has to cover the costs of providing the service offered. This rule stops folks from freeloading by stealth - and such a refund could be potential fraud/theft in some ways
  7. I don’t think the Ombudsman would rule in your favour - if you wanted out, you should have opted-out during that window of opportunity
  8. Technically, discretion may be possible if you missed the window by a few days - but you’re bringing this up now several months after the changes went live so discretion wouldn’t apply
  9. You should be keeping an eye out for important emails anyway about stuff like ToS changes. Ignoring them and complaining months later about said changes is not a valid excuse for not acting on them
  10. Most places offer at most a one month free trial or “free refund” period in which you can legitimately request a full refund and cancel the service (or get a partial refund for the unused portion) as a one-time deal. It’s unreasonable to make such a demand after using such a product or service for six months.

I’m afraid you’re on your own there.

Here’s another example. You bought a leaf blower from a garden centre, got home, unboxed it and decided that you didn’t like it because it’s not powerful enough for example. You haven’t yet assembled it and haven’t plugged it in or used it at all other than getting it out of the box to inspect the goods.

In this situation, it’s totally OK to box it back up and return it to the garden centre for a refund because it’s unused and still in a completely new, sellable condition and the garden centre can simply put it back on the shelf for someone else to buy.

On the other hand, if you bought the same leaf blower, unboxed it, assembled it, used it in your garden for a whole day and then decided to return it because you don’t need it anymore… You’re not entitled to a refund because you’ve benefited from having and using that leaf blower for that entire day and it’s lost value as a result - the garden centre wouldn’t be able to get the full price if they tried to sell it again.

The latter case is called return fraud and it’s massively illegal. By the same token, it’s reasonable to refuse a refund if there’s clear sign that an item has been used for more than a reasonable period needed to inspect and/or test the goods work properly and it is not faulty. In your case with OVO Beyond/Greener Energy, I’d argue that you have benefited from Greener Energy for longer than that “reasonable period”.

If you try to get OVO to refund you six months after benefiting from a product, that could potentially be seen as fraud depending on who’s eyes are looking at it.

That example bears absolutely no relation whatsoever to anything I wrote. Did you actually read my post?

They key issue here is consent vs implied consent. The legality of which I’m not sure about, and was hoping for some intelligent discourse around. If I have no case, then that’s fair enough. But please…..that post is irrelevant drivel.

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My posts are long and detailed primarily for three reasons:

  • It helps others understand my reasoning and generally makes my content more helpful
  • It’s good for SEO to the forum - high quality content that helps readers is more likely to bring people here than low quality farmed answers
  • I also have Autistic Spectrum Disorder - my writing style is one of my traits and there is no way for me to change or supress it as it’s part of who I am

I read just about everything posted to this forum before responding. Whether you want to accept my answer/response or not is your choice, but please be aware that I often address my responses for this kind of question to the wider community, not just the OP.

Ultimately, the short answer is that implied consent is the same as regular consent, provided you have a chance to decline/opt-out/revoke it first ahead of the activation. Whether that revocation is by closing/deleting your account, returning the product, cancelling a trial, ending a subscription or whatever method is provided, doing so before the change takes effect is a clear signal of you refusing consent even if the completion time of the revocation request goes beyond the deadline - such as it needing a few days to fully close your account and clean up your data. As long as you initiate it before the deadline, it counts.

If you do not do that, you are giving your consent to be bound by the agreement. It’s not practical for most places to wait forever for folks to manually click approve or have to run multiple versions of the same thing at once, so this type of consent speeds it up massively while still giving you control.

The alternative is that your entire energy supply - for example - gets nuked and disconnected because you didn’t sign the new version of the OVO Core Terms & Conditions of Supply that had a tiny change in it related to what tool you use to report issues, or that your bank account gets closed and you lose access to all your cash forever because you didn’t manually accept the new version of the bank privacy policy.

That’s why implied/deemed consent exists - to avoid such undesirable outcomes and ensure continuity of services.

The other thing I’ll say is that my original response also addresses one of your other questions, specifically this one.

I want to be refunded for this extra amount I have been billed for. I suspect Ovo are going to be awkward about this. If so, is this something I can take to the Ombudsman?

For which my initial response covers that in a lot of detail.

err…..I never mentioned the length of your posts, nor complained about the length. I in fact appreciate where someone goes to the effort of helping someone online with detailed information. I complained that it was irrelevant.

> Ultimately, the short answer is that implied consent is the same as regular consent,

It’s not

In your example, buying a leaf blower from a garden centre is a consensual transaction. Of course I can’t use it and then take it back. But what does that have to do with my case?

If a garden centre simply delivered an unrequested leaf blower to my house and charged my credit card claiming it was implied consent, I would consider that unfair. Regardless of of them stating I had a certain amount of time to return it at no cost. They are still placing a burden on me.

What sort of world would it be if companies can simply deliver unwanted products under the guise of “implied consent” and then hope the consumer doesn’t notice.

I’m no lawyer, but this seems unfair to me...

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Unwanted goods that are randomly delivered to your house that you didn’t order are covered under different rules - you can (and should!) force an immediate return and claim a forced refund in those cases.

The leaf blower example I gave covers cases where someone tries to fraudulently claim a refund after already benefitting from something.

However, if you are given notice of a price increase, upcoming changes and/or replacement for something you’re already using then that’s where implied consent can apply. You were already subscribed to OVO Beyond and the product was being replaced by a successor. OVO gave you notice of that change (in fact, I got even longer notice as a forum volunteer) and you had the chance to turn it down. Since you didn’t opt-out, OVO can legitimately swap the product over once the notice period expires on the basis you gave full consent to do so.

OVO is not the only company to do this - just about every big firm does it these days.

In fact, some take it so far as to totally abuse it. Norton for example, keeps yanking older products and forcing folks onto new ones that are totally unrelated while massively jacking up the price. That would be unfair, but at least they do give some kind of advance warning… Even if it’s by using the same spammy pop-up special offer notifications that they shovel tons of other stuff through ( I switched to Bitdefender in 2018 because of it).

However, in the case of OVO Beyond → Greener Energy… 

  1. You had an existing relationship with the affected service
  2. You explicitly opted into OVO Beyond and agreed that the price/offering could change at anytime
  3. OVO alerted you one month ahead of the changes and told you how to decline
  4. You failed to follow the opt-out
  5. I’d argue that Greener Energy is at least along the same lines as OVO Beyond

Ultimately, you probably don’t have a valid case here. Just cancel the upgrade, let it drop from your account and leave it be. That’s the best advice I can give you. If you had come here within one month of Greener Energy being launched, my advice would have been to request a refund. Alas, you waited six months so it's reasonable to expect that you willingly accepted the changes. My advice factored that in.

There is only so much OVO can do to reach out to those affected. It was blasted all over the main OVO website, all over the press, in your MyOVO online account, in the OVO Energy app, all over social media, lots of threads in this forum, multiple email alerts… What else should OVO do exactly? Set off SOS Flares and light up the sky at night? Turn the moon green? Do an Alton Towers PR Campaign like the one Alton Towers did for The Smiler? If you ignore every single contact method OVO has tried, that’s your problem. There is only so much OVO can do to try to get your attention for important stuff. 

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One other thing actually.

When quoting, it’s totally OK to chop out entire sections of the quote to cut the size down to just the relevant bits you want to refer to and also shrink the size of your comments to something more manageable. However, please try to at least include the entire sentence that you want to refer to, so that the relevant context is also included. Otherwise, the context of the quote is completely modified and it makes it sound like the other person said something they didn’t, or didn’t say something they did.

There are folks on forums who don’t appreciate that, especially if the quote is modified to completely remove their original intentions.

For example, you quoted this

Ultimately, the short answer is that implied consent is the same as regular consent,

Which has a completely different meaning to the original sentence of

Ultimately, the short answer is that implied consent is the same as regular consent, provided you have a chance to decline/opt-out/revoke it first ahead of the activation.

Just something to bear in mind. You can probably see how much extra context is provided by the full quote in its original form.

 

Ultimately, the short answer is that implied consent is the same as regular consent, provided you have a chance to decline/opt-out/revoke it first ahead of the activation.

 

The answer still remains “no, it is not”. They are very different things, both semantically and legally.

We appear to be talking at cross purposes, so I’ll make this my last post.

Thanks for your help

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So what you’re saying is this. You want it to be in a position that if you don’t accept such changes before they happen:

  • Your bank account gets closed
  • Your energy supplies are cut-off
  • Your phone and broadband service is terminated
  • Your email accounts get permanently deleted
  • You can’t go anywhere because your driving license is revoked

Are you sure that’s what you want? This is my final question of the night. I'd encourage you to consider it carefully. 

Userlevel 6

Hi @purple_swine 
 
Sorry to hear about this.
 
I’ve had a look through the updates we received at the time of this change to see how the introduction of Greener Energy worked.  
 
I can see we wrote to everyone who had OVO Beyond 15 days in advance to let them know when they'll move to Greener Energy, how it's different from OVO Beyond and how much it costs. We wrote to this group again when they moved to and started paying for Greener Energy, and a third time a week after the move over.  
 
All existing OVO Beyond customers were offered an introductory price for either the first 3 months or first 6 months, after which they were charged full price.
 
The first monthly payment was added to your bill the month after it was added to your account and showed up each month thereafter. You can cancel Greener Energy at any time. The cancellation will take effect from the following month.

 

I’ve linked below to a couple of helpful topics on this too:

 

Thanks for the actually sensible reply Abby.

I appreciate that Ovo made a decent attempt to let me know about these changes, however it still feels like something I should have actually consented to regardless.

Not understanding much about contract law, I’ll probably let this one go.

Cheers Abby

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