Why it pays not to ignore your mail
Q: I recently opened a letter addressed to 'the occupier' and discovered an electricity bill for £900. There were no dates specified but it was for 18 months, which is the time I've lived in the property.
Because Atlantic Electric threatened to either enter my home and install a prepaid meter or cut my electricity supply, I paid the bill, and have now set up a direct debit of £65 a month to cover the rest of the outstanding amount.
The reason I didn't open any letters before is because they were only ever addressed to 'the occupier' and I just assumed they were junk mail. Clearly, I shouldn't have assumed this, but is there any way I can get something back, given the letters were never addressed to me?
A: Unfortunately, as the resident of the property at the time of the electricity usage, you are still responsible for the huge bill - but the lack of direct communication from Atlantic Electric certainly hasn't helped matters. In recognition of this, the company has agreed to waive the £80 debt collection fee.
Duncan Macdonald, a spokesperson from Atlantic Electric, advises all customers moving in or out of a property to "contact their energy supplier with an accurate meter reading, as this allows their account to be either opened or closed correctly".
This would then mean that all future correspondence was addressed to you by name, saving future junk mail confusion.
When faced with a huge bill, Macdonald stresses the importance of always contacting the energy provider first.
"Before a customer is tempted to involve a third party in paying their bills, it's always worth contacting the energy supplier directly," he says. "They can offer a range of payment methods that may help customers with their budgeting, and often save them money in the process."
Incidentally, in the last issue of Moneywise, our scam expert Donal MacIntyre warned readers against the perils of not opening their junk email, thanks to the proliferation of identity theft.
Although it may be a bore, it pays to open all your post, even if it's only addressed to 'the occupier', not only to ensure that you haven't missed some vital information - or a bill - but also make sure you haven't fallen victim to identity theft.