Direct debit not fit for purpose

For the second month in a row my bill shows a negative balance, despite having a direct debit set up on the date Bulb suggested, and funds in my bank to cover the transfer.

The payment on 25th September still shows (on 1 October) as ‘pending’, as it did last month when I was told the bank holiday was to blame. I have no control on how long the funds take to transfer - it’s up to Bulb to organise transfers to allow sufficient time for funds to appear BEFORE the billing date.

Last month, the consequence was that, even though my payments are adequate to cover my outgoings, my Bulb account showed a negative balance and Bulb told me they would increase my payments for six months. After complaining on this website (see ‘Absolutely Nothing Right’) Bulb stepped in and assured me I could keep my payments at the old level, but now the exact same direct debit problem has occurred and, as far as Bulb’s accounts are concerned, I am in debit AGAIN.

Until Bulb can organise their direct debits in a way that works, it means the only way to avoid falling into debit is to have over a month’s estimated payment in the account at all times.

Has anyone else had this problem?

I fail to see why there should be a concern that the statement comes out a couple or so days before the direct debit is paid into your Bulb account.

It just means for a couple of days your account may be in debit but after the DD has gone through the system your account will go into credit.

The fact you are a couple of days in debit should not make one iota of difference to the way the monthly DD is calculated.

Hi Allanr

I agree, In itself, going into debt for a couple of days shouldn’t be a problem. But it is, because if my account goes into debit, Bulb immediately calculates that I need to increase my payments to cover the shortfall. I then get automatic emails telling me I should increase my payments (which I don’t need to do) or, more seriously, a directive that my payments will be increased whether I like it or not. Since my payments are at the appropriate level to cover my usage and I don’t want to increase them, I then have to waste my time writing emails to Bulb to override the automatically triggered intervention.

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Thanks, I appreciate what you are saying but I would assume that Bulb are sufficiently savvy to take into account the direct debit is paid into their customers account after the statements are produced when working out DD payments.

Are you able to clarify if your account goes into credit once the DD has arrived in the account, perhaps Bulb are asking you to make good any shortfall (i.e. debit) after the DD has arrived in your account.

Perhaps BUlb can clarify the situation?

Hi Allanr

Sadly, I think you are mistaken about Bulb.
Savvy, perhaps; but not in the customer’s interest.

Yes, my account will naturally go back into credit once the bank transfer is completed, but that is not the point. The point is that the temporary negative balance shown on my account is used immediately to identify a (nonexistent) shortfall between the positive balance Bulb wishes to see and the negative balance it does see on that one accounting day. And it then includes that (nonexistent) shortfall when recalibrating future direct debit payments.

After my last bill (which included a nonexistent debit), Bulb wrote to me and gave me an estimate of the cost of energy for the next year. Then they gave me the figure I needed to pay each month (x) - as one would expect it was exactly 1/12 of the annual cost. So far so good.

Then they told me they were going to set my monthly payments for the next six months, not at my discretion, at 132% of their own monthly figure (132% of x). They explicitly stated the positive figure they would expect to see in my account at this time of the year and explicitly stated the (nonexistent) negative figure that my account showed.

There are two possibilities for setting my payments at 132% of their own prediction.

  1. To cover the (nonexistent) shortfall shown on my bill.
  2. Because their estimate is so poor that Bulb need a 32% cushion in case of error.

Neither is acceptable.

After I complained, Bulb looked at my usage and were happy to keep my payments at the pre-increase level (74% of x) for the next three months. They in no way stood by the results of the automatically generated figures.

This indicates to me that their accounting system is seriously flawed and liable, because it includes nonexistent shortfalls, to charge customers far higher monthly payments than are necessary.

From reading other comments on this forum it seems it’s a widespread problem.

Like you, I would welcome Bulb’s clarification.

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What can I say except this is exactly it?

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I fully understand what you are saying and try to give Bulb the benefit of the doubt.

Make what you can of these four Bulb T&C’s, they do seem to contradict one another.

  1. Paying for the energy and other charges

4.4.4 Your monthly payment amount will be based on the cost of the energy we think you’ll use during a year with us, split into 12 equal monthly payments. We will send you an email with the payment amounts and payment dates when we set up your account with us.

4.4.6. We aim to review the amount, date and frequency of your automatic payments at least twice a year to make sure you’re not paying too much or too little. We ensure your payments cover your consumption and any debt.

4.4.7. If you have a monthly Direct Debit with us, you can amend the amount you pay each month within parameters set by us.

(a question to Bulb - what are the parameters?)

4.10. We will carry any debit or credit balance forward to the next month’s bill.

As before perhaps a Bulb employee can explain what it all means?

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I’d love to know this too actually.

I realise now I have made mistakes in my conclusions above.

I’ve created a new post Direct debit not fit for purpose - my bad! to put those mistakes right and offer some positive suggestions.