OK, I made a mistake.
In my previous post (https://community.bulb.co.uk/t/direct-debit-not-fit-for-purpose/89689) I drew some faulty conclusions.
So here, I want to put those mistakes right, explain why I got confused and, I hope, offer some suggestions to help Bulb and its customers.
For the first 8 months of my contract, Bulb failed to take any direct debits from me. They emailed me to say the money would be withdrawn, but it never was. That resulted in my initial payment, and my £50 joining bonus being eroded month after month until my account was in debit.
When I contacted Bulb about the problem, they eventually discovered the direct debit had been set to ‘manual’ not ‘automatic’, so payments had never been transferred from my bank. To acknowledge their mistake, Bulb offered me a good will gesture of £10 which I accepted. This £10 credit nudged my account back into credit. At this point I thought all was rectified: I had a positive balance and my direct debit was sorted.
I was therefore surprised to find the next month my account was in the red again. I looked at my September direct debit and found it had not gone into my account before September’s bill. I queried the delay. Bulb told me it was caused by the bank holiday and I could move my payment date earlier. I checked this forum and found other people had moved their payment date but the billing date had been moved too, so money still didn’t get into their account before billing date. When October’s direct debit was ‘pending’ for five days and my account again went into debit, I contacted a second customer service agent who said he would refer the problem to his superior. It seemed like Bulb were deliberately holding back my direct debit until after my bill was sent.
It was only when I read Lou_at-Bulb’s response in this post: https://community.bulb.co.uk/t/is-it-me-or-is-this-more-than-coincidence/88329/12?u=drelectron that I realised my error - I’d focussed on the direct debit and forgotten the bigger picture - the direct debit was being held back because it’s supposed to go in after the bill; I pay a month in advance - the direct debit is for next month’s payment.
I actually said as much in my own post: “the only way to avoid falling into debit is to have over a month’s estimated payment in the account at all times” (Yes!) but in the mess over my credit being eaten away I’d forgotten that’s exactly what I’d signed up for.
So, I apologise if I misled anyone. And thanks to Allanr’s responses which encouraged me to continue my fact checking.
I do have some, I hope helpful, suggestions as a result of my experience.
- I’m not the only one to get confused over the cycle of payments and debits. Neither of the help team who fielded my complaints picked up my error - maybe emphasis needs to placed on checking why a customer’s account is in debit.
- When my account went into debit, Bulb responded by at first suggesting, and then insisting, that my payments increase. This again missed the cause of the problem. In my case, a far better response would have been something like: "Because you pay in advance, your account needs to have a positive balance at the start of each month of a to cover the coming month’s fuel. To keep your payments at their current level, please make a one-off payment of b to give your account the positive balance it needs to start the month. If you are unable to make this one-off payment, we will need to raise your payments to c for d months to cover this shortfall.