Energy bills hike after ‘shift of goalposts’ has stunned Deptford residents

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

Residents in two Deptford apartments were left in shock after being told they owed hundreds of pounds after a firm reissued energy bills they had already paid.

People living in the Station House and Tinderbox House blocks in Deptford were sent the revised invoices covering periods of up to 18 months in November last year by billing company Welcome Energy.

An attached letter informed residents that they now owed more than the original invoice because the development’s mains supplier had ‘issued revised supply bills’ to the company that manages the buildings.

Some residents who failed to pay the extra money within 28 days were sent letters by Welcome Energy informing them that their heating and hot water supply could be cut off.

The letters also warned residents that they faced an additional ‘late payment charge’ if they didn’t pay the money immediately.

The flats in Station House and Tinderbox House are heated through a communal heat network, where hot water and heating is supplied to homes via a network of pipes from a central boiler.

Unlike traditional heating systems, communal heat networks are not set to be regulated by Ofgem until 2025. In the meantime, there are no rules stopping firms reissuing bills to heat network customers.

Juan José Ortiz Peregrina, 36, has lived in the Deptford apartments for eight years. He claims he has been left owing an extra £266 after Welcome Energy reissued two bills last November covering a 15-month period between late 2021 and early 2023.

“They threatened to cut off our hot water if we didn’t pay,” he said, adding that the company should have recredited residents the amount already paid before issuing the updated bills.

His partner, Isabeau, said: “We had no prior information. We wondered ‘can you do this?’ Obviously, we found out there’s no government protection so they can back bill us that far. We are considering moving.

“There’s nothing preventing them back billing us again in the future. We have no option to change supplier. We just don’t know what our energy prices will be.”

Francesco Delfino, 42, who has lived in Station House since 2019, is disputing hundreds of pounds worth of debt that was added to his account after Welcome Energy sent out four bills, two of which had already been paid, with higher tariffs in November 2023.

He said: “They are not regulated by anyone and they told me ‘it’s not my problem’ [when he complained]. They said that the bill in my account is £410. They still want that from me. At the moment I am paying just what I have to pay. There’s nothing else I can do. I’m not happy about it.”

A Welcome Energy spokesman said: “We needed to compare the energy charges billed to residents against the amount paid for the purchase of the gas. Whilst we understand it is frustrating, it is beyond the control of both our clients and Welcome Energy.

“[We] have always communicated with our residents regarding any price change or reconciliation charges via letter, and we are happy to answer any concerns via email or by phone.

“Welcome Energy is a billing agent and we are instructed by our clients to recover the cost only. We do not have the facility to cut off any residents’ heating and would not threaten such behaviour.

“We remain committed to working with residents during the cost-of-living crisis, and are always happy to discuss payment plans.”

Pictured top: Juan José Ortiz Peregrina was told he owed £266 more after Welcome Energy reissued his energy bills (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)


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