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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 138

Date:- 07 February 2004

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Bill catches student out - energywatch announces student service

WHEN Mr Duck saw the size of his bill he was left with a few ruffled feathers. Mr Thomas Duck, a former student at Manchester University, lived with some fellow students in a house between July 2000 and was with another supplier until January 2001. 

In January 2001, Mr Duck's housemates signed up to British Gas and put his name down onto the account until May 2001, when they moved out. As they had been paying their previous energy supplier, when the time came to move out he assumed "Things would be OK"

However, in January 2003 Mr Duck was sent a bill at his new address in Northampton. To his horror, Mr duck found that even though he had left the property in May 2001, British Gas were billing him from Jan 2001 – October 2003. The electricity bill was a whopping £578.83, which after energywatch investigated was reduced by just under £400 to £186. The gas bill was £518 which was reduced to £208.

Mr Duck said:- "BG have spent more time hassling me despite me explaining it, time after time. Each time I speak to them, there appears to be no record and I can never speak to the same person. British Gas had a verbal instruction from my former landlady that I had moved, but even then they insisted on seeing a written copy of the agreement. How they went a year without recognising other people had moved in and then left was beyond me.” 

Mr Duck added:- “I don’t mind paying my fair share, but I’ve had to pay for the gas and electricity bill. I would urge students to read energywatch’s tips to try and reduce the chances of this happening to them.” 

energywatch’s Student adviser for Liverpool, Gillian Armstrong, said:- “Mr Duck’s case highlights the need for students to read our tips on how to control your bills to help avoid such situations. Your energy bill is not going to go away. You need to manage this properly. If you’re having a problem paying it, the sooner you speak to your supplier or energywatch in the first instance the easier it will be.” 

Armstrong added that energy companies must play their part in reducing the billing blunders by delivering bills that are clear, accurate and on time. “Undoubtedly, if energy companies were more consistent with recording contact with their consumers, it would have helped Mr Duck and the consumers who have experienced a billing problem. We want energy companies to read their meters more and become better at recording the meter readings provided by consumers.” 

The consumer body is offering these practical tips to students in Liverpool:-

How to Control your bills 

§ When you move in, tell your supplier so an account can be set up in your name and the names of your flatmates. 

§ Remember, whoever’s name is on the account is responsible for paying bills, whether they continue to live there or not. 

§ If you don’t notify your supplier that you have moved in, you will be liable for any fuel consumed in the premises and this may include unpaid bills by previous occupants.

§ When informing your energy supplier you have moved in, give them a reading from your meter at the same time. Make sure you keep a copy of the reading too! 

§ If you are unsure who supplies your gas: contact Transco on0870 608 1524. 

§ If you are unsure who supplies your electricity look in the phonebook or contact energywatch on 0845 9060708.

§ Provide meter readings regularly. This ensures you only pay for what you use. 

§ Paying for less than you use, can cause a huge catch up bill eventually. 

§ Paying for more than you use, may see the supplier holding onto your money until you ask for it. 

§ You are obliged to pay for the energy used, so don’t think it will all go away. 

§ Check out which supplier is cheapest. You can save up to £100 just by changing energy 

§ company. Contact energywatch for more details. 

§ If an energy sales rep calls to offer a cheap deal, make sure all comparisons are on a like for- like basis. Do not sign or verbally agree to anything unless you are sure you want to (and can) switch! 

§ When you move out, give your supplier a final meter reading so that an accurate final bill can be issued. Keep a record of it! 

Marks & Spencer Herald’s UK’s biggest company-led work experience program

MARKS & SPENCER is launching a major new program “Marks & Start” offering work experience placements to people in Liverpool who may face barriers getting a job.

Marks & Start will become the biggest program of its kind in the UK and Ireland as well as Marks & Spencer’s flagship community initiative. Over the next three years, up to 10,000 two to four week work experience placements in Marks & Spencer stores and offices around the UK will be offered to school children, including those from deprived areas, disabled people, parents returning to work; young unemployed, students and the homeless. 

Luc Vandevelde, Chairman of Marks & Spencer said:- “Marks & Start will open the door to employment for thousands of people who face particular challenges getting a job. We’ve already offered many placements to the homeless and we know that practical work experience and being part of a team can boost an individual’s self-esteem and their ability to find employment.
Within the first year of the scheme Marks & Spencer aims to give some 600 individuals in the region a taste of life in a working environment and the confidence and ability to get a job.

Marks & Start builds on Marks & Spencer’s existing commitment with Business in the Community to offer 600 placements to homeless people. 

Of the 455 people who have completed this program so far, over 30 per cent are now employed at the company. A report published today by The Work Foundation highlights the need for more companies to provide placements to help excluded groups find sustained employment. 

Three and a half million people in the UK who currently want work but do not have a job, homeless people and people with disabilities are among those that face the greatest challenges finding employment."

ROBINSON CRUSOE - A Pantomime production

THE play "Robinson Crusoe" is being presented by THE UNITED BENEFICE DRAMATIC SOCIETY at in St. Mary's Church Hall, Waterloo Park, Waterloo.

Pantomime performances will be held on the following dates:-
18th, 19th, 20th and 21st February at 7.30pm
Matinee performances:- 21st & 22nd February 2.30pm.

The United Benefice Dramatic Society is a joint collaboration between St. Faith's Church Crosby and St. Mary the Virgin, Waterloo Park. The Pantomime promises to be a fun-filled family show and tickets are great value!

Tickets cost £6.00 (£4.00 concessions).

To obtain tickets please call:- 0151 924 1938. In Aid of Church Funds


FOLLOWING the recent wintry weather, 1 in 3 motorists may be inadvertently by breaking the law by driving vehicles with dirty number plates warns RAC Legal Services.

And with the poor weather predicted to continue, RAC is warning motorists to clean up their act or face possible prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

"As speed cameras became an increasing sight on UK roads, police forces are using regulations which state both front and back registration plates must be clearly visible to ensure number plates can be read by the cameras, alaw 62% of motorists were unaware of.

However, it is not only for the sake of speed cameras vehicles should be kept clean. Dirty headlights and windows can impair visibility; a contributing factor to the higher rate of accidents at this time of year.

It's important you have clear visibility of other vehicles on the road and that they can see you. Before you set off on your journey, don't just de-ice
your front windscreen. Check your lights, including your fog lights, and your side mirrors are clear and top up your washer bottle so you can maintain a clear windscreen when on your journey,"
said RAC Head of Accident Care James Molloy.

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Southport Reporter is a registered Trade Mark of Patrick Trollope.   Copyright © Patrick Trollope 2004.