Apr 20 2011

Shocking Behaviour

Category: UncategorizedMarcus @ 11:15 pm

For reasons I’m not going into in a public post, getting probate on my dad’s estate is taking a long time. Most of the organizations owed money were happy to put things on hold and hang in there, but not E.ON Energy. When I notified them of my dad’s death they wanted a copy of the death certificate, which was fair enough, but they also wanted a copy of the tenancy agreement for some unknown reason. A few weeks later they sent me a final bill and then 2 days later sent me an overdue reminder. I wasn’t amused and wrote to their complaints department who told me that it was a mistake and that they were going to put things on hold until probate was granted. In all the letters I’ve written I said that getting probate was taking a long time and that I would let them know when it was granted.

However, on Saturday I got a letter from a “probate specialist” called Philips & Cohen Associates (UK) Ltd which had lots of pictures of flowers and a faux-sympathetic tone about being there “at this difficult time”. What they didn’t say was what they were specialists of. A quick Google found their website which says that “We are proud to be the world’s premier probate recovery specialists combining sophisticated systems and analytical capabilities alongside highly trained and experienced probate recovery professionals.” In other words, they’re a debt collection agency that will try to get as much as possible from an estate, even one that could be insolvent.

I rang Philips & Cohen and had to deal with a pipsqueak who was obviously reading from a script, even the bit about “we would like to offer our sincere condolences”. He was also tying himself in knots trying not to talk about debt collection. I told him that the account was supposed to be on hold and that they should never have contacted me. Working for a big company with its own call centres means I understand how much (or little) autonomy call centre staff have, but my voice was still shaking with anger because I knew his company is about as sincere as a timeshare salesman. On the other hand he did offer 10% off if I paid the bill outside probate. Wow.

I’ve written to E.ON to get them to explain why an account that was supposed to be on hold has been sold on to a debt collection agency. Possibly all this rigmarole is acceptable to a business process designer but like most of them I daresay the person (if there is one) hasn’t experienced it at first hand. Back in January I said in a flocked post that I was the right person to do the probate thing because I’m not scared to take on companies that try to push their luck. This is one example of this. I’m also going to be writing to the Energy Ombudsman over Easter because I think an external review of their procedures would do them some good. Processes like this are usually automated and part of my job involves implementing them so I know they always allow things to be overridden if necessary. Unfortunately for E.ON one of my favourite court cases (Ferguson vs British Gas Trading) found that “[British Gas] also made the point that the correspondence was computer generated and so, for some reason which I do not really follow, Ms Ferguson should not have taken it as seriously as if it had come from an individual, but real people are responsible for programming and entering material into the computer. It is British Gas’s system which, at the very least, allowed the impugned conduct to happen.”

My advice for anyone with E.ON would be to move supplier. If that’s not an option, try not to die while you’re a customer. I’ve gone from being appalled, to surprised, to very disappointed, and back to being appalled with this bunch of shysters. Hopefully a bit of blogging will help to embarrass them as well. This is not a difficult situation for a half competent company to deal with, but I don’t think E.ON is one of those. E.ON used to be Powergen before they got taken over by the Germans, and Bill Bailey got it exactly right:

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