Headless Chickens and Pointless Hate

So, its been over 12 months since the Referendum on leaving the European Union. Its been a momentous time. In the time since then we have had the prime minister ( Cameron) resign and a new prime minister in May installed. A Labour party that seemed in meltdown after the local elections. A Snap general election a few weeks later that saw Labour run the Tories a close second leaving the loser Corbyn feeling powerful and the winner May trying to survive like a boxer on the ropes.

However, put that to one side and lets look at what the vote to leave the EU has meant to each of us in practice. During the referendum campaign we were told that a vote to leave would be disastrous and we would need an emergency budget, businesses would leave Britain immediately and basically the world as we Bits know it would end.

So, what has happened? Well the FTSE has risen, showing there is confidence in  British businesses still.

What businesses have fled Britain as a result of the Brexit vote? To date, none have .  It is true that we have not left yet, but no business has said it is leaving the UK. There is a lot of sabre rattling, but so far no action.

What  about the exchange rate? It is correct that it has fallen against the dollar and the Euro. Is this a problem? It means it is cheaper for our businesses to export goods, so should mean our businesses are able to sell more abroad. It also means that imported goods will be more expensive, thus encouraging British consumers to buy British, Another win for the UK economy. Obviously, it means your holiday money doesn’t go as far, so holidays abroad are dearer. Again, there may be a positive in this in that it may encourage more spending in the UK as people have staycations either by choice or forced by financial issues.

So, despite the headless chickens and the scare stories, it seems that in practice little has changed so far. We still travel to and from Europe and despite what some people have you think, we still will after Brexit is complete. We travelled to and  from Europe before the EU was formed. The only practical difference is that we may walk through a different channel at passport control.

So despite all the rhetoric and hate speech by people on both sides, no one has taken anyone’s future away and in practice little has happened. The whole EU issue is the biggest red herring out there. It is sad to read peoples hate filled posts on social media, in the papers and listen to hate filled rants on the radio about this topic.

So, let me now turn to the “negotiations” to leave the EU. There seems to be a lot of media posturing on both sides. Both sides seem to be trying to debate in the media rather than with each other face to face.

Whether you are a Remainer or a Brexiteer, it is in the interests  of Great Britain to support the negotiators on behalf of the UK. Why I hear the Remainers ask? You want Britain to be part of the EU ( I am not going to re hash those arguments). 

Let us assume for a minute that at some time in the future Britain decides it wants to change its view and remain/ re-join the EU. If Britain does not leave the EU now, then our negotiating position with EU in any future matters becomes very weak. The strength of our hand ( and that of every other country) in any negotiations is they will leave the EU. If we now do not leave the EU, then the rest of the EU will know our threats are idle ones as we had the chance to leave and bottled it. We become a neutered party at any EU negotiations.

If we do leave the EU and then choose at a later time to re-join, there will be negotiations to re-join. If we negotiate a weak position  on Brexit, then we have no hand with which to negotiate in future and as such we will end up with a poor deal.

If however we negotiate a strong deal on Brexit, then when negotiating to re-join we will be in a strong position and have a good hand to renegotiate the terms of our re-entry.

It therefore seems to me that the best interests of Brexiteers and Remainers are served at this stage by a strong negotiation on Brexit and getting the best possible deal.

You Couldn’t Make it Up!

For the last approximately 5 years I have had problems with my Gas and Electricity supplier. I won’t embarrass them by naming them. Let’s call them for simplicity by the pseudonym “NoPower”

I was initially paying them monthly in advance for my gas and electricity. However, at the end of the first 15 months (including 2 winter quarters when usage was the highest!) I was massively in credit with NoPower. Payments monthly in advance are intended to be cost neutral i.e. you should over a 12 month period only be paying the cost of the power you use. There is government guidance to this effect.

In the circumstances, I wrote to NoPower and asked them to refund me the credit balance. They did so with no real issues at all. I received a cheque from them in the post. Almost the next day, I received a letter from NoPower saying they were quadrupling my direct debit payments as I was not paying enough to cover the power I used!!

I wrote back to NoPower querying this and pointing out they had just had to repay me a significant sum as a result of my overpayments. They simply said they were quadrupling the amount they were going to take under the direct debit. This would mean I was paying approximately 6 times the amount of power I used.

I produced a calculated spreadsheet showing exactly what the power usage was over a year for gas and electricity, added in the standing charges and a 10% allowance for inflation and sent this to NoPower saying that in accordance with government regulations was the maximum they should be taking. They replied stating they were going to quadruple the payments and did not attempt at all to deal with the calculations provided. As a result, I was left in 2012 with no option but to cancel my direct debits to NoPower. I was not prepared to pay 6 times the power I use.

NoPower said nothing about this and I paid the next couple of bills quarterly upon receipt of the bills.

Then in December 2014 NoPower advised me that they wanted to come and inspect my meter. Apparently, there is a legal requirement to carry out safety checks on gas meters at least every 2 years. How did NoPower confirm the date / time they were intending to visit my address? No, not by letter or by phone call, but instead it was by a message on my online account. It was lucky that late on a Saturday night I logged online to provide meter readings. The message on my online account said that Npower were coming the next day ( a Sunday) between 0800 and 1700. I rapidly cancelled arrangements I had to be out for a full day cycle ride and stayed in all day.

Guess what, NoPower failed to turn up. No notification that they weren’t coming and indeed no communication from them at all until I wrote to them asking why they had not turned up.

Initially they denied they had made any appointment and indeed had removed that message from my online account ( Shame I had taken a screen print of it!). YOU MAY THINK THIS IS A LIE BY NO POWER. When confronted by the screen print they simply said they do not attend to do meter checks on a Sunday. They did not answer the question as to why they had made the appointment if they did not do checks on a Sunday.

When I pressed them further, I got no response?  I also demanded compensation for the wasting of my Sunday. NoPower initially denied any responsibility for this, despite the fact I had to stay in to await their visit.

After several months of fruitless correspondence, a lot of which was simply ignored or not replied to, I advised NoPower that I would charge them for my time in dealing with them over this.

NoPower then offered me £25 compensation for the whole of a Sunday spent in. If you take it as 9 hours spent in, it works out at less than £3 per hour. Not even 50% of the minimum wage. In the meantime, NoPower proceeded to charge me £25 for sending a computer-generated letter saying I had not paid their last bill. Yep, a day of my time is apparently valued at the same as a standard computer-generated letter! Indeed I had already told them I was not paying the bill until the issue of compensation had been resolved.

Thus, the dispute continued on. I at one time got a letter from NoPower confirmed that following a phone call on a specified date between myself and them, that the matter had been resolved. When challenged on this they confirmed no such phone call had taken place (ANOTHER LIE FROM NO POWER?).

NoPower then threatened to issue court proceedings in the magistrates court  for a warrant of entry to disconnect my power supplies.  They even went as far as issuing the summons, but then cancelled the application after I pointed out to them that where there is a dispute about the bill the appropriate procedure is to issue a summons in the county court to prove the debt before they try to enforce it. I also pointed out their duty to disclosure all facts to the court ie those that support their application and those that oppose it.

There then followed more correspondence from me, inviting NoPower to issue proceedings in the county court. They did not respond, but send numerous different letters from various debt collection companies making inaccurate and sometimes misleading claims.

NoPower then issued another application for a warrant in the magistrate’s court, despite nothing having changed from their last application. This time I instructed a solicitor’s firm to represent me and a barrister to cover the hearing. The first hearing was adjourned to allow time for a contested hearing.

In the meantime:

  1. NoPower wrote a letter saying there was a mistake in their records and they had allegedly undercharged me
  2. They sent letters from various debt collection agencies to which I responded, then sent letters alleging I had not responded to previous letters and charging me additional sums for not responding!

The hearing of the warrant application was today before the court. The District Judge dismissed the application because…….NoPower failed to turn up at court!

Ironic really given this whole dispute arose because NoPower did not turn up originally. As I say, you couldn’t make it up.

Wait until No Power get the bill for my time and that of my legal team for this wasted hearing. It dwarfs the amount they allege I owe them, never mind the earlier bills they owe me!