Cranbrook fury over ridiculously huge hike in energy bills

After many Cranbrook residents endured nearly a week of no heating while temperatures plummeted below zero last month, further misery and anger is being caused following claims that communal district heating provider E.ON has ‘ridiculously’ hiked up energy bills. One resident has reported that her heating bill for November/ December is £693.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

Another claimed their latest bill has risen ‘ridiculously’ from £60 to £625 in a month. Noticeable differences have also been reported by those with meters.

A resident says a new meter was fitted in their property around six months ago and they used around 650 units in just under six months. During the time when some Cranbrook residents were experiencing problems with their heating and hot water supplies, the resident claims their meter ‘shot up to 1700 ish.’

E.ON has insisted that there are no known issues with meters and that bills will have increased this time of year. However, East Devon MP Simon Jupp says that after hearing residents’ latest concerns, he is striving to get more information from the energy provider.

Cranbrook is part of a ‘district heating scheme’, meaning they are all heated by an energy centre, rather than a boiler, located half a mile away which can only be run by one supplier, which is currently E.on. All 2,000 homes are signed up to E.on under an agreement which is in place until 2090.

Mr Jupp said: “At a time when customers on E.ON’s heating network in Cranbrook and Tithebarn were facing outages with shambolic regularity and were sat in freezing cold homes, many people still saw their bills continue to go up. I am very concerned to hear reports from residents that they’ve been charged for heat and water they obviously weren’t able to use a lot of the time.

“I urgently raised this with E.ON who insist higher bills are because customers were using more heat and hot water during the colder weather. I have gone back to E.ON’s bosses with specific examples of unusually high billing so I can get clear answers for affected residents, who are quite simply fed up, and who can blame them?”

A closed meeting is said to be taking place between E.ON and its customers on January 25. Details have not been disclosed to DevonLive by E.On about why it has been called and the aim of the meeting.

Instead, an E.ON spokesperson said: “The details of the meeting have been shared with our customers. This is not an open event and all of our customers have been invited directly.”

Regarding the latest concerns raised over the hike in bill payments, the E.ON spokesperson said: “With the colder weather and darker evenings we have experienced over recent weeks, it is reasonable to expect that most customers will have been using more energy than in previous months to keep their homes warm and well-lit. Any customer who has a query regarding their bill should contact us directly to discuss this.

“We know these are incredibly difficult times and we continue to urge any customer who is struggling to get in touch as there are ways we can help.”

Last month, Mr Jupp intervened on behalf of Cranbrook residents when they were struggling without heating before Christmas. He expressed his concern at ‘E.ON’s ‘lack of pace’ to resolve the issue and slammed their response as “woefully inadequate”.

At the time, engineers believed the problems predominantly stemmed from an issue with valves situated within the heat interface inside some homes. Once supplies had been restored, E.ON said they would then assess what future actions need to be taken to prevent a repeat of this issue from reoccurring.

Last week, DevonLive reported the town had woken up to no hot water on January 16, after its communal heating supply was cut off. E.ON has said that the brief issue was an “isolated incident” caused by a fire alarm which cut off the energy centre.

It is likely that district and communal heat networks won’t be regulated by Ofgem until at least 2024, it has been announced recently. Householders who face issues of intermittent supply of their heating and hot water will remain at the mercy of their provider to find a solution, with no option to seek redress from a regulator.

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