My account is in credit. Why have you increased my Direct Debit?

I joined Bulb a few months ago for a house we are refurbishing and the is uninhabitable as virtually a building site. Nobody has been living there and the electric and gas have been disconnected most of the time. Virtually no energy at all has been used and meter readings confirm this. I agreed a monthly joint energy payment of £91 and we are over £200 in credit. A few days ago an email from Bulb said that the monthly fee will increase to £145 due to our likely useage. As we have used almost no electricity or gas for since we joined Bulb I am interested how this decision has been arrived at. I expected more from Bulb than just computer generated blanket increases.
I shall be looking elsewhere for my energy as soon as possible,
.

Hi @Rosedale13,

Have you been providing Bulb meter readings for the property? if you haven’t, then all they’ll have to go on to produce the bills will be ‘typical usage’ for that type of property or historical usage details for the property (which they would have been provided by the previous supplier).

I believe the emails Bulb has been sending out are recommendations and that you can keep your debit amount to the same amount (you may need to change it in your Bulb account at https://account.bulb.co.uk ) - again, this will have been estimated usage figures based on typical/predicted patterns.

Like you I’ve been with Bulb a few months. My monthly payments are about £80 and my usage has been about £60 through the summer. I’ve had one £50 referral fee and my account is well over £200 in credit. Like you I was threatened with my monthly payments almost doubling. I’ve always provided meter readings on time and, to be fair, after I sent my last readings the threat was withdrawn.

One of the main reasons I left my previous “big” provider was because of this kind of tactic. My thinking on making monthly payments is that sometimes they will more than cover usage and sometimes they will fall short. I would expect my account to sometimes be in credit and sometimes in debit but, over the year, to even out. Providers don’t think like that. They, and it seems Bulb is as bad as the rest, are happy for you to be hundreds of pounds in credit but absolutely not to be £1 in debit.

In my opinion using the word threat is rather extreme, in all the time I have been with Bulb they have only ever suggested I increase my dd based on usage and pending price increases.

@scudo

Like you I find the word “threatening” somewhat out of context to my experience of Bulb.

Perhaps @Neil_R can share on this thread the actual wording (less any personal details) used by Bulb when informing of the intended direct debit increase?

OK, I admit I was having a bad day and “threatening” was a bit strong but the gist of my message still stands. Like the “big” companies Bulb seems intent on keeping customers in credit rather than allowing credit to accumulate through the low use periods and a debit to accrue in the winter.

Some quotes from messages I’ve received are as follows:

“Average monthly usage £119.01”
“We’ve checked your account and it looks like you need to increase your payments to £110 a month, "
“Based on your estimated readings, if we don’t do anything you’ll be in £122 of debt by this time next year.”
" it looks like you’re using £113 a month on average,”

These statements are contradictory and, while not actually threatening, are obviously designed to worry me into paying more each month when it certainly isn’t necessary at least not for the next several months.

In fact my account is £252 in credit going in to the winter period. My monthly usage has been around £60 through the summer and autumn and my monthly DD is £81. If my mental arithmetic is right, even if my usage doubles over the winter (to the £119 quoted above) I would still be in credit 6 months from now without increasing my payments.

That is in line with what I receive which I tend to ignore, but I do ensure I top up when required.
Unfortunately you, me and a few others actually pay attention to their Bills/payments and do still receive standard letters asking for increases.
Bulb and other companies cannot afford the time to personalize every letter so rely on computerization especially when you have hundreds of thousands of customers. One that really riles me is my yearly council tax letter which is headed “Demand Notice” despite paying on time every month for the last 30 years.

You are right Scudo.

The other thing I meant to put in my previous message was, even if the statement “you’ll be in £122 of debt by this time next year” was correct my view is SO WHAT. Bulb is currently £252 in debt to me. Why shouldn’t I be £122 in debt to them 12 months from now ? Their thinking is clearly that I might cancel my contract or abscond owing them money. They have my bank details and DD mandate so it is unlikely they’d actually loose money. Whereas Bulb could go bust tomorrow taking my £252 with them and I’d struggle to get it back.

Swings and roundabouts I think.

@Neil_R

Whilst I haven’t yet received a similar sort of email I believe the method used by Bulb to calculate a DD payment increase is flawed.

There has been a very recent discussion on this, please see http://community.bulb.co.uk/discussion/6639/frequently-asked-questions#latest

If individuals have a large credit to more than cover the following months energy use then I think there should be no email to request a DD increase.

I fully appreciate Bulb are possibly advising an increase to cover the winter periods, but it is difficult for some customers to understand this if they have a large credit balance. However it seems totally reasonable to me that Bulb should request a DD increase where the account has gone into debit, this is more likely to palatable to those customers affected by the increase.

@Rosedale13 We need meter readings to know your consumption has been low, can you send these to us and then we can check what your usage has been over this period?

@Neil_R We are sorry if you think that our emails have been threatening. The reason we send them is to try and avoid a potentially difficult situation at a later date. We are trying to be pro-active in telling our members that we would advise a different payment otherwise you will end up building a debt. It is advisory and let me know if you want to keep your payments the same.

DanP at Bulb I apologised above that I didn’t actually find your emails threatening just a bit annoying and I understand that you are trying to avoid a difficult situation at a later date - I get all that. Maybe you can answer my question, why is it OK for Bulb to owe me £252 now but not for me to possibly owe Bulb £122 a year from now ? Rather than suggesting I increase my payments by 35% why not suggest I decrease my payments for two or three months until my credit has reduced to a more reasonable figure ?

Bulb have about a million customers, you can’t expect a general payment algorithm to work for everyone. Just ignore the email and adjust the payment to the amount you’re happy with. As long as you’re in credit, they don’t mind.

DanP at Bulb I apologised above that I didn't actually find your emails threatening just a bit annoying and I understand that you are trying to avoid a difficult situation at a later date - I get all that. Maybe you can answer my question, why is it OK for Bulb to owe me £252 now but not for me to possibly owe Bulb £122 a year from now ? Rather than suggesting I increase my payments by 35% why not suggest I decrease my payments for two or three months until my credit has reduced to a more reasonable figure ?

For those of us who have our fingers on the button (i.e. check statements each month and provide meter readings just before statement preparation) we follow the process described in: https://help.bulb.co.uk/hc/en-us/articles/115003405632-How-do-Bulb-payments-and-statements-work-

Hi @Neil_R

One of the reasons Bulb is able to price so competitively is that we don’t charge you for the benefit of paying at the end of the month.

We take payments upfront to buy our energy in advance, rather than charging you at the end and having to borrow the millions of pounds for 31 days, which brings interest rates helps us keep your costs down.

In order to have this type of payment system to work, we do need to be clear on keeping our members accounts in credit.

As @Allanr and @PaulMC12345 mentioned, the payment amount is in your control, we just have to advise the best payment amount for you at any given time.

Thank you Rob at Bulb for an honest and straightforward explanation. You want to keep members accounts in credit so that you can use their money to subsidise your costs allowing you to provide cheaper energy to your customers. I understand and support that principle. You could however make that clear in your communications with members rather than suggesting that you are wanting to help them stay out of debt.

The information in the link provided by Alanr above suggests that members accounts may actually go into the red (debit) but I doubt Buld would actually allow that to happen. Again, if that’s the case, why not say so and stop the pretence ?