Buxton pensioner considered suicide over 18-month-long energy bill blunder

A Buxton woman contemplated suicide after being hounded by an energy company for 18 months over someone else’s unpaid bill.

By Ben McVay
Friday, 21st August 2020, 6:00 am

Marilyn Nichols, 68, was bombarded with letters demanding payment for an outstanding electricity account belonging to a nearby resident whose address was mixed up with her own.

The pensioner - who survives on a state pension and housing benefit - told how she spent ‘months’ suffering anxiety and sleepless nights faced with the prospect of having her power disconnected as winter approached.

In July energy firm Scottish Power sent mother-of-two Marilyn a letter demanding payment for the overdue account - £435.

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Marilyn Nichols was hounded by Scottish Power for another customer's debt for over 18 months

In the letter the energy provider warned her a debt collection agency could cut her gas supply off or install a function on her meter – deducting a portion of the debt as she topped it up with payment cards.

After months of failed attempts to have Scottish Power clear the unsettled debt from her address the former farmer of 30 years was shocked to find £7 automatically-deducted from a £10 prepayment card she loaded into her meter at home.

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She said: “I budget £30 monthly for central heating, hot water and cooking so at this rate I would need to put £100 onto the meter for £30 of gas.

The letter demanding payment

“Seventy per cent would go to Scottish Power - a bonus for their incompetence to resolve the error.”

Faced with the prospect of a cold autumn and winter with no heating or hot water and unable to cook Marilyn even considered suicide.

However she added ‘I wasn’t going to give them any more money so I started writing letters’.

One of them reached High Peak MP Robert Largan - who was so worried about the 68-year-old’s mental health he alerted police.

Marilyn with partner Neil McCormack

On Wednesday morning officers showed up at her Manchester Road flat fearing the worst and to check she was okay.

Relieved Marilyn told how as the seriousness of her complaint was escalated Scottish Power contacted her to resolve the problem - clearing the debt from her account.

However she admitted the experience had taken its toll, saying the firm took ‘incompetence to a new level’.

She said: “Their employees are really taking the mickey - I really was reaching the end of my rope and actually started using the word suicide.

“You would think a big company like Scottish Power would take this kind of thing more seriously.

“They’ve caused me so much anxiety with the phone calls and sleepless nights - I’ve endured this for over 18 months.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Power said: “We’re concerned about Ms Nichols’ experience and very sorry for the distress this has caused.

"There are a number of historical issues related to the energy account and address details as well as the meter associated with her property, and we’re doing everything we can to sort these out as a priority.

"We’re keeping in touch with Ms Nichols every step of the way and hope to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”

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