On 19th December 2009 I reported how Southern Electric, one of this country`s major utility suppliers, was sending threatening letters to overdue payers. These "red" bills had a message which was in effect pay now or your supply will be cut off. The actual wording [unless it has been changed] is "NOTICE OF ELECTRICITY DISCONNECTION"...."unless we receive full payment immediately we will have no alternative than to disconnect the supply of electricity to...." This is an empty threat and has no power. A domestic supply cannot be cut off for non payment of a bill without a warrant having first been obtained by the supplier or its agent at a Magistrates` Court. It is an absolutely disgraceful example of practices which for the most part retailers and suppliers have stopped using. But it seems to have gone from bad to worse for Southern Electric and they are still disregarding approved practice.
I sit on a bench where I personally [with colleagues] deal with applications about once every three weeks from utility companies. Our strict inquisitorial approach to such suppliers or their agents when applications are before us for dis-connection, or as is most likely, installation of a pre-payment meter has been extremely worthwhile insofar as they usually appear with most of the information and answers we require to ensure as far as we can that not a single case of entry could have been avoided. That is all but Southern Electric who still seem to think that all they have to do is appear before a bench of magistrates and say, "at 1111 Main High Street, the occupier owes £xxx and here is a warrant of entry for you to sign." Last week that is exactly what took place except of course these scanty details were on the information document presented. The agent was unable to supply any real information at all, answer any question on detail and in one case confirm the identity of the account holder. He was told politely to get lost and not to return until he had the information available for each warrant as might be required under the agreed Best Practice Guidance on this topic.
Millions of households are in difficulties paying gas and electricity bills. That is no excuse for Southern Electric pursuing such payments by threatening actions which can cause such distress and which they know they cannot carry out against these vulnerable people .