A mother and son have spoken of their three-year nightmare over being landed with an electricity bill for almost £120,000 which came about due to a mistake from the electricity suppliers.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

npower was to take Christopher Buxton, 34, his mother Audrey Buxton, 65, and their landlord to court over the bill from the time they were running Lakeside Country Club in Lyng, near Dereham.

But a last-minute settlement was agreed outside the doors of Norwich County Court last Wednesday.

npower attempted to get a confidentiality agreement which would prevent the Buxtons from talking to the media about the case, but this was only mentioned after the deal had been signed and the Buxtons refused.

This week they have spoken exclusively to the EDP of their anger and how their lives have been turned upside down.

The Buxtons are seeking legal advice and considering their own claim for compensation from npower who they say has destroyed their lives.

The enormous bill came after the company discovered the meter readings had been wrong and, for almost four years, the company had only charged one tenth of what it should have.

The readings should have effectively had an additional zero to the total figure.

Mr Buxton and his mother, who live in Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham, leased the country club from August 2005 until October 2009 and they walked away because of the situation with npower. The Buxtons were claimed to owe £83,000 of the £117,939 bill.

The out-of-court settlement reached was for the Buxtons to pay npower £5,000 plus £5,000 costs. On top of this the Buxtons paid £18,500 on their own legal fees.

A separate, undisclosed, settlement was reached between npower and the landlord.

Mr Buxton said: “For the last three years I don’t think there has been a single day where I have not had a conversation about this electricity bill. It has taken over our lives and caused a huge amount of stress.

“It is completely unfair that electricity companies are allowed to back bill for huge amounts of money and put us through this nightmare because of their own negligence. You could understand the odd bill being wrong, but they got it wrong for four years and expected us to pay for their mistakes.

“npower makes many millions of pound profit every year. It was their error so they should have written it off.”

Mrs Buxton said she has been taking medication for her nerves as a result of the stress caused by npower. She has sold property in Great Yarmouth and personal possessions to pay off npower and their own legal fees and support herself and her son who have not worked since they walked away from the country club three years ago.

She said: “npower has ruined our lives and for what? The amount we paid them would have amounted to what we would have paid them in electricity at the rate we had been paying them in the first place.”

A spokesman for npower said: “The customers had been paying around £200 to £400 per month for their energy which was very low indeed for what they were actually supplying - leisure facilities, accommodation, a heated swimming pool - and they never queried this.

“We have now settled this with a full and final offer of £10,000 which the Buxtons will pay, with a £5,000 down payment by September 30 and the other £5,000 split across 18 months.”

The spokesman added: “In terms of back billing, from April this year npower began operating under voluntary industry standards for the back billing of micro businesses. As well as providing customers with the reassurance that their circumstances will be taken into account, where we are at fault, we will limit any back billing period to a maximum of three years. Whilst this case pre-dates the back billing standards, it is pleasing to note that a substantial discount has been agreed for the Buxtons.”

Mr Buxton said he did not believe there was any reason to question why the electricity bills were low. This was the first time the Buxtons had run a country club but Mr Buxton had experience of running pubs.

Mr Buxton and his mother took over the lease of Lakeside Country Club in August 2005. It was in 2007 that they first became aware there was a problem.

In September 2009 npower took the Buxtons to court in an attempt to cut the electricity off over the outstanding bill. They failed because the landlord, not the Buxtons, was the named account holder.

But it was at this point that the Buxtons first realised the size of the bill and that they were fully implicated in the dispute.

The Buxtons terminated their lease at the country club in October 2009.

Mr Buxton said: “I had to walk away from what had been a profitable business and what I had planned to run for many years. If I’d known the size of the electricity bills I never would have taken the place on.

“I have only ever worked for myself. I have no qualifications and no spare money to set up a new business, so have not worked for the last three years.”

Mr Buxton and his mother are now trying to rebuild their lives. They are using Mrs Buxton’s life savings to try to set up a fish and chip shop and a bed and breakfast in Great Ryburgh.

Lakeside Country Club is open today under different management.

10 comments

  • if they noticed there was a problem in 2007 why wait until 2009 to leave surely they should have sorted it out in 2007 and anybody thinking that amount of buildings etc etc could be run for £200--£400 a month these days must be out of touch with the real world

    Report this comment

    i am mostly wrong??

    Friday, September 21, 2012

  • "Mr Buxton said he did not believe there was any reason to question why the electricity bills were low" Really .....?

    Report this comment

    catalonia13

    Friday, September 21, 2012

  • Strikes me that the hapless Buxtons are trying it on, but that is now acceptable, it's become the way of the world. We now live in a something for nothing society.

    Report this comment

    peter waller

    Friday, September 21, 2012

  • I had serious problems with npower. I was using a card for electricity payments, but the payments were going on someone else's card. It took 2 years and the energy watchdog to sort out the mess. Npower accused me of lying etc. They did eventually wipe out the bill of £300, and gave me £50 compensation, only because I asked for it. NEVER AGAIN!!!!!!!

    Report this comment

    Bogeyman

    Friday, September 21, 2012

  • Strikes me that the hapless Buxtons are trying it on, but that is now acceptable, it's become the way of the world. We now live in a something for nothing society.

    Report this comment

    peter waller

    Friday, September 21, 2012

  • If these people weren't trying it on then they must have been really thick to realise the billing was wrong for a venture of this size. No qualifications at 34? Says it all. With such ignorance how on earth did they manage to run a business? Just desserts if their new venture fails. Don't expect any sympathy for their 'plight'.

    Report this comment

    beachstar

    Friday, September 21, 2012

  • Some great comments. I bet none of you would admit to being under charged. Good luck to them. I suspect if Npower owed them money it would be a different story.

    Report this comment

    Rolf

    Sunday, September 23, 2012

  • "They got it wrong for four years and expected us to pay for their mistakes." I think you meant: "They got it wrong for four years and expected us to pay for the electricity we had used." Still they seem to have got away with it, and nPower won't mind, because all of their other customers who don't have the brass neck to claim they aren't responsible for their own electricity use will just have to pay an extra few pence on their bills.

    Report this comment

    rupertjames

    Friday, September 21, 2012

  • Seriously.....£200-£400 a month on electricity on a country club (incl swimming pool)? Didn't they have an electricity bill in their house prior to moving into the country club? Chancers!

    Report this comment

    Col

    Friday, September 21, 2012

  • If they used it they should pay for it, simple as that! My son and his partner had a prepay meter and were putting in £60-£80 per week on their gas, but not getting any heat or hot water regularly from their new boiler installed through the council. Fearing a leak they ended up turning off the boiler until it was sorted out. 10 months later after going back and forth between the council and the gas provider and having several engineers visit and find no faults, they got other authorities involved. Within 2 days another engineer arrived and fixed the problem. It turns out the engineer they installed the boiler had put a valve on the wrong way around and NOBODY had spotted this! It could have had a much different outcome as he obviously did not install the boiler correctly. My son and his partner lost a lot of money paying for gas that was running through bit not being used. Nobody will repay this money to them because nobody is still taking responsibility for the error.

    Report this comment

    Shanski

    Saturday, September 22, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Norfolk Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 21°C

min temp: 16°C

Five-day forecast

loading...

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT