A BATTLING 4ft 9in granny has told of a two-month phantom gas bill ordeal at the hands of npower.

Daphne Pook, 74, tried to switch from the multi-million pound energy giant to the Co-op for her gas and electricity, only to be hit with a £225.64 gas bill she didn’t owe.

The electricity company first claimed she owed the money on November 28, telling her it meant she couldn’t switch suppliers. Even after weeks of anguished phone calls from Mrs Pook, it insisted in a letter dated January 24 that she still owed the money.

The firm says that letter, refusing to allow her to change to the Co-op as a supplier, was sent in error, and insists it has treated Mrs Pook well.

Spokesman Adam Mallaby said: “We understand Mrs Pook feels she hasn’t had great service by npower and we acknowledge that a small error was made on Mrs Pook’s account, which was resolved quickly.

“The welfare of our vulnerable customers is extremely important to us and we feel we have gone above and beyond to look after Mrs Pook’s energy needs on a number of levels."

Mrs Pook, a retired cleaning firm owner who suffers from a crumbling spine, sees things differently.

“I’m on my mettle and I’ve learned to be a survivor,” she said, “but there are a lot of vulnerable people out there. I would describe npower’s service as disgusting. They’re complete and utter incompetents. It’s been very upsetting.”

Mrs Pook’s main complaint against the firm began in November. She said: “I worked out that the Co-op was cheapest for gas and electric and I decided to go to the Co-op in mid-November. Then I got a letter dated November 28, saying I had an outstanding balance of £225.64 on my gas account.

“I’ve been on key meters for 18 months, and you only get what you put on the key.”

Mrs Pook then embarked on an odyssey of the npower call centre and complaints department, logging her phone calls as she went.

She says she was repeatedly told the problem was resolved, only to receive a letter in December saying the bill remained outstanding, and another dated January 24 saying the same thing.

The final letter came some time after the company sent her £92 to cover the cost of the inconvenience caused by the mistake – a mistake that letter repeated.

Mr Mallaby said: “The customer’s transfer to Co-op was objected to in reference to the debt of £225.64, but we realised immediately that this was an error. “We’ve not asked Mrs Pook to pay this money and removed the debt, as well as giving her £92 as a gesture of goodwill.

“Mrs Pook can now go ahead with her transfer to Co-op by ringing them.”

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, said he feared the possible implications of the case for other customers.

Mr Buckland said: “It’s important that cases such as this like this do not put off people from wanting to switch to get best value for money. I’m concerned, especially with older customers, that they’ll think, ‘If that’s the hassle I’m going to be put to,I don’t want to switch.’ “I would urge npower to look at their systems to make sure that petty obstacles like this are not put in front of people.”

Age UK charity director general Michelle Mitchell said: “With around 3.5 million pensioner households living in fuel poverty, it’s really important that older people feel confident about switching energy suppliers to save money on their bills. “If you are unhappy with the way you have been treated by your energy company, you should complain to them by email or letter and if you are not satisfied with the response, you should contact the Energy Ombudsman.”

Factsheets about saving energy and switching suppliers are available at www.ageuk.org.uk. The charity’s helpline is 0800 169 65 65.