Inefficiency in the UK (Enter the Ombudsman)

Have I mentioned before how some things just aren’t as easy here as they are in the US? Oh yeah, that’s right, only about a million times. While I find customer service to be friendly when it comes to the boring but necessary stuff (wifi, gas/electric, phone, rent, etc.) it is horribly inefficient, if not downright useless. The worst and most stressful experience to date has been with a utility provider called E.On. Up until them it was Frontier (cable) in the US… I never thought a company could beat that experience but E.ON sure did. I’m writing this post in hopes of saving someone the prolonged grief I had.

When you move into a flat here you have to pick a utility company for gas/electric and there are a ton to choose from. First, we tried E.ON and never heard anything back from them after we requested their services. Next, we tried SSE who was confused about our gas meter and couldn’t figure out how to pick up a phone to call us to work it out. After that we set up with Bulb. Bulb helped us to figure out that the gas meter that our landlords had been paying on all along (the meter they put in our lease) belonged to another flat. After about four hours on the phone Bulb sorted out the meter issue and started billing us for the correct meter. Then, low and behold, E.ON starts billing us for the meter that belongs to someone else… (insert every expletive in the book here).

I emailed E.ON explaining that the meter they were billing us for wasn’t ours and requested they remove my name from the meter/account. I sent them all of the requested information backing up what I was saying. I was very nice during these initial communications and that’s where I messed up. They told me they were handling it and then several months later started billing me again (a nearly £700 bill!) and basically this was an ongoing nightmare for ten months. TEN MONTHS. I requested all communication be kept to email so that I could document everything they told me and everything I provided to them (thank you legal background). I can’t even begin to express how bad their customer service was. The people were nice enough but they lied constantly and continued to pass me off to different people and we’d start from square one with each new person. I finally gave up on them and decided to go to file a complaint with the Ombudsman and if that didn’t work I’d file legal action against them.

I was so glad I had documented everything since when you file a complaint with a third party you need to file evidence to accompany your complaint. The email chain I provided made E.ON look pretty bad, so much so that the Ombudsman ruled in our favor and instructed E.ON to close our account AND to pay us £100 for the inconvenience. Man, I wish I had done this sooner. It was such an awful situation and caused so much extra stress in my life. I was beyond relieved when it was finally done. The point of this post is if you live here and encounter something like this, and you eventually will, don’t wait as long as I did before taking action.

Who is the Ombudsman? The Ombudsman is basically someone who is appointed to investigate complaints and make a decision on them, an impartial party to the matter. You can visit this link for a more detailed description and more information: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/law-and-courts/civil-rights/complaints1/how-to-use-an-ombudsman-or-commissioner-in-scotland-s/. That said, if you find yourself in a difficult situation I highly recommend going to the Citizens Advice Bureau (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/). If you are in a situation where you feel stuck and don’t know what the hell to do then contact them or check out their website and they can point you in the right direction. I’m so grateful for this service and I hope I never have to use it again.

I love Scotland but I struggle with the inefficiency of things. The thing is the longer you live here you adapt and learn what works and what doesn’t work (how to approach things) and where to go when you need help. I’ve become much more straight-forward in interactions when something isn’t clear. I’ve learned what is just typical to be dragged on forever and what is not acceptable even to UK standards. This whole move has been one learning experience after another but ultimately I find a little joy in the areas where I’ve found myself adapting to these things. The inefficiency will always annoy me to a degree, it annoys people who were born and raised here, but I am learning to accept that this is just the way things are and simply knowing now that I have options when some of these things go completely sideways helps quite a bit. Scotland, I still love you. Love, Lindsey.

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