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First-Utility

Last post Thu, Dec 08 2011, 12:07 PM by erikbloodaxe. 131 replies.
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  •  Tue, Feb 16 2010, 8:44 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    A copy of the complaint email I just wrote to first utility.


    The reason I joined first utility was so that I would have access to near real time billing and know how much I would have to pay for my electricity and gas each month. First utility have failed abysmally by not providing me with any billing information or even a bill of ANY description since I joined with you in May '09!

    While I call and complain about my lack of being billed, I am met with the same answer, the issue has been escalated and management are dealing with it. When I ask what decisions management have come to, I am met with silence.

    I am told that when I will be billed, if I cannot afford the amount, I will need to approach the First Utility credit team. This is unacceptable, after all, how am I to know if I am on the correct tariff/pricing structure when I do not know my costs from month to month!?

    Billing issues aside, I noticed at the beginning of my contract, that my address for my gas usage was displaying on my computer as High Street, Perth. I have never lived in the High Street and have no idea how this could have happened, after several calls throughout the year, one of your customer service agents only managed to amended it on the phone tonight.

    I joined first utility in the hopes of accurate and real time billing. I have received neither, nor did I receive a real time energy meter as I was led to believe.

    This is a pity, as first utility have the makings of a good company. I was happy when an engineer came a long way specially to install my meters and called ahead the night before, and in the morning, to notify me of his arrival. However, I am very disappointed with your efforts regarding my billing situation, and if it is not sorted out within the next month I will be contacting trading standards, the energy ombudsmen and any consumer magazines or newspapers that will listen. You have had nearly a full year to sort this out!

    • Post Points: 65
  •  Mon, Jan 25 2010, 6:09 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    Very glad to hear that you are still with First:Utility Stacey.

    Customers can, of course, only interpret and disseminate events from what they learn or told by F:U Staff.

    Not receiving any response to eMails or the F:U website Messaging System left the Telephone as the only channel open for contact.

    I am sure the Customer Service Staff who man the Telephones do their level best for Customers, but it seems as though they are only 'message takers' who pass on information. The net result is that issues are not acted upon promptly as the staff charged with taking action are, to some extent, isolated from the Customer. Many issues concern the apparent fragility of the Data Collection System. Hopefully this is something that will be rectified soon, together with why it takes a minimum of 48 hours to get result which at best might last a whole week? Frankly the performance of the 'Metering Department' beggars belief. You have to be very lucky to get a result after 48 hours and you soon learn that it is only cold comfort when a few days later you are faced with the same situation that had only just been resolved.

    When I next need to contact F:U I will eMail you. This will probably be very soon unless the third Telephone Call which was a few hours prior to your post brings an effective response to my current issue.

    Your input is very much appreciated Stacey.

    • Post Points: 5
  •  Mon, Jan 25 2010, 1:01 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    Hi Stacey here from first:utility - I notice there has been a few comments that some customers have been unable to contact me. I am still with first:utility and you can contact me by emailing stacey.roberts@first-utility.com

    I notice that two discussion threads mention that customers have been charged an incorrect VAT rate for the Home Display Units, this was an administration error for which we sincerely apologise and I can confirm that where appropriate a credit will be issued on the next bill.

    • Post Points: 20
  •  Tue, Jan 19 2010, 12:49 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    Hi Gel,

    Thanks for the advice on exporting the data to excel, everytime I had tried this before I just ended up with the data dumped into one column. I'll follow the process you outlined and see how I get on. :-)

    Cheers

    Alistair

    • Post Points: 35
  •  Mon, Jan 18 2010, 9:20 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    I also have had serious doubts regarding the system generally. I tend to latch on to things like e.g:

    Reading a Meter every half an hour should generate 48 Readings in a Day.

    Therefore in a 30 Day Month there should be 48 x 30 = 1440 Readings.

    I copied the Month in question to an Excel Spreadsheet and found, courtesy of Row Numbers, that not including the Title Row there were only 1395 Readings available. The copy action is achieved by hitting a 'Copy to Clipboard' button as it is not possible to 'select' the required Data to copy and paste and the same result occurred on several attempts to capture the 'complete' set of records.

    So yes the Displayed 'Grid' Readings, for what they are worth, can be transferred to an Excel Spreadsheet. I am a Mac user and run MS Office 2008 for the Mac. I will run through the process followed but if you are using Windows you may have to make allowances for some possible differences.

    1. Hit the 'Copy to Clipboard' button on the Usage Chart open in Grid View

    2. Paste into a New/Blank Worksheet.

    3. In my case each Row is one continuous string punctuated by an excess of Quotation Marks.

    4. To clear these I use Find " and Replace <with nothing> i.e. do not make any entry under Replace

    5. Save the resulting File using Save As and select Comma Separated Values [CSV] as the type of file

    6. Open another New/Blank Worksheet and Import the saved CSV File

    7. In my case I am offered a choice of File Types to Import, hitting the Get Data button after making the selection

    8. I am then offered the first of several windows from which choices are made

    9. The first is the method of Column Separation in this case Comma

    10. The second shows how the Data will be affected and there is a Text Qualifier selection this is changed to None

    11. At this point the Rows can be seen to separate into the Columns expected

    12. At this point I can elect to Finish or move on to Advanced

    You may not have have exactly the same screens or choices as described but looking carefully at what is on offer may help you to get the Data into reasonable shape. 'Play' with the selections available to you, it is free and a great way to learn.

    Note that there is one heck of a lot of Data in a months worth of Electricity Readings, albeit you are being told, in a 30 day month subject to F:U idiosyncrasies, 1440 times that your Account Number is ****** the Register ID is 'Import' and your Meter reference Number is ********. Nothing that a few clicks cannot handle.

    I hope the above is clear enough to be of some use, do let us know how you get on.

    EDIT: Revisiting the 30 Day Month in question above and hitting the Copy to Clipboard button and then Pasting into a New Excel Worksheet the correct Number of Readings were copied over. On the face of it it seems to imply that F:U are not so bad after all? As far as I am concerned it means you have to check and check again and F:U should get it right first time.

    Now I find that my Electricity has hung and that will mean another round of phone calls, like I said before nil proactive action. F:U dump the responsibility, and some cost, for keeping their rubbish system working on the Customers.

    • Post Points: 50
  •  Mon, Jan 18 2010, 6:50 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    Following the advice from Gel, I decided to call FU as opposed to wait in the hope that someone reads the email to Stacey. I spoke to someone called Sarah this eveing who, though helpful, sounded confused when I explained the nature of the overcharging on my gas account, but she said she'd refer it for a query and also confirmed that the price of the monitor is including VAT, so fingers crossed I'll get that back next month. I suspect that more detailed explanations of my gas usage/charging concerns may be needed.

    As for the general service from FU, when this has worked I would say that I've been really happy with it, but looking back, I'm afraid that it's had problems for more months than it's been accurate. I also think the functionality of the software is very limited. Has anyone worked out how to export the load data to any other application, like excel, in a meaningful and useful format? I've registered with google power meter and this seems to be ok, but again not exactly full of functionality that allows you to carve up the data.I also played with one of the applications that you can dowload with the monitor, but couldn't get it to connect to the PC.

    If I'm missing something, please let me know :-)

    • Post Points: 50
  •  Sun, Jan 17 2010, 8:58 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    Thanks for your input Kevin.

    It is really good to hear that there are some 'winners', pity Stacey Roberts is not still around to make more happy customers.

    I am a 'night owl' and have found that the Usage Chart displays are available from just a few minutes past midnight but it varies and on occasion updates arrive around 02.00 hours. Doubtless load scheduling requires spreading the Data traffic.

    The irksome part is having to check regularly because F:U do not appear to do any proactive checking. If you do not persist with attempts to get things moving nothing happens. At present I find the best mode of contact is by telephone, the downside is the cost in time and cash.

    Let us hope others will report their experiences of whatever variety, thanks again for your post.

    • Post Points: 50
  •  Sun, Jan 17 2010, 6:52 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    gelphyn

    Just to let you know,i have been with F:U since last May ,at first a few profile problems,must admit Stacey Roberts sorted these out,but for the last few months everything has been fine,bills correct,bought a monitor charged £35.00 including vat,i am suprised people are having these problems,is it because all these problems are in one area now they are only covering the midlands(i am in lancashire and joined them before they stopped going nation wide) They did estimate my bills for a couple of months at the begining but not by much and they soon corrected this once all meters and module worked correctly.

    I can look at the load profile usage charts every morning by 9.00am and the day before usage on gas and electric are already showing,yes i am pleased .

    Hope you all get things sorted out soon as i know how it feels when its not correct

    Kevin

    • Post Points: 50
  •  Sat, Jan 16 2010, 10:59 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    You may have a long wait Alistair?

    If by writing you mean eMail I waited in vain for a reply from Stacey for several weeks. I understand that there has been a change with the Customer Services Manger post. At a guess F:U will have a job keeping good staff in Customer Services.

    Perhaps our situation regarding Gas Readings is very similar at the root. Disregarding the detail they seem to be treated to the same F:U policy of trying to palm customers off with 'fuzzy' excuses. If there are significant numbers of Customers having issues with Load profile Usage Charts resulting in extended Estimated Billing then F:U should be stopped in their tracks. It may take official intervention to resolve these issues. If we are a small minority we will have to make a loud noise about it until we get heard. I can only repeat a point made earlier that I would really appreciate reports from F:U Customers who do not have problems with Load profile Usage Charts.

    Those of us with issues naturally 'shout' about our problems, so to any readers who are happy with F:U please chip in.

    Good luck with sorting the VAT and overcharging issues.

    • Post Points: 50
  •  Sat, Jan 16 2010, 9:24 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    Hi Gel,

    The issue with my estimated gas was, according to FU, due to the meters not communicating, however the software on the site was showing my accurate daily usage all the time, it was just the bills that showed estimates. So, I guess my experience of the issue was different to yours but also not consistent with FUs explanation of the cause, as the way this happened suggests a billing problem and nothing to do with the load profile.

    The problem of the estimates was made worse by FU as, in the process of 'fixing' the problem, they managed to re-bill me for past usage, thereby charging me twice.

    As for the VAT on the monitor, I did send a message to FU through their website, but past experience tells me hell will freeze over before I get a response, so I have written to Stacey Roberts to ask that she reviews all charges and all usage on my gas account since my transfer in May 2009 (my calculations show that I am still owed a refund) and to ask her why they don't state that the monitor pricing is exclusive of VAT. I need to check this, but I believe this is against Office of Fair Trading advice when pricing for consumers so I would hope that the VAT will be refunded as well.

    • Post Points: 20
  •  Sat, Jan 16 2010, 8:47 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    Hi AlistairF

    Good to hear your update but sad to see it reflects my experiences.

    I would like to be clear on one of your points. You say:

    The availability of accurate billing is still very hit and miss, after a couple of months of everything working OK, they suddenly started to estimate my gas usage again.

    Does this mean that your Load Profile Gas Usage Chart ceased to function?

    F:U 'managed' [or should that be screwed up] my Gas Usage records so that the Estimated Readings were extended. Extending Estimated Reading periods seems to be the name of the game.

    My Gas Usage Chart was regularly hanging up and it was taking too long before being rectified, none the less it could be rectified. When it went down just prior to the end of the month I got really annoyed because it was to be the first time when Electricity and Gas were due to be Actual Readings. The ensuing telephone conversation was slightly calmed by F:U stating that 'Although your readings are not displaying we have the records available here and so your Bill will be accurate.' That being the case it would seem only to be a Software glitch? As the frequent failures continued I again strongly suggested that they get their house in order and the calming injection this time was F:U stating 'There is a fault with your Gas Meter Module, a replacement has been arranged and you should be contacted very shortly'. Frankly this a pill which is more than difficult to swallow.

    My experience with the Energy Monitor follows your experience except for the VAT which was correctly charged at 15%. If yours was Invoiced just recently I would say that is par for the F:U course, your money in their pocket earns them interest?

    • Post Points: 20
  •  Sat, Jan 16 2010, 6:36 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    I just thought I would add to my previous posts to share my more recent experiences.

    The availability of accurate billing is still very hit and miss, after a couple of months of everything working OK, they suddenly started to estimate my gas usage again. They only corrected this once I brought it to their attention, but in the process of doing so they managed to make the billing extremely complicated and rather conveniently charged me twice for the estimated usage.

    However one thing I would also add is that I also bought one of their energy monitors which they advertise for £35 on their site. However when this charge was added to my bill, they had added 17.5% VAT to that price. Despite the price not stating it's exclusive of VAT and it not being mentioned when I spoke to their customer service team when placing the order. Given that this device is targeted at the retail market I think this is extremely underhand as it effectively means that the unit costs £41.13 and there are other places that sell this much cheaper. I have emailed them to ask why they have done this, their response, assuming they bother to respond at all, will determine whether I take this further.

    I should also add that I ordered the item and it was delivered in December 2009, therefore if VAT was to be added, it should really have been at 15%, the fact that they take so long to bill me shouldn't really affect the VAT they apply to the bill.

    • Post Points: 35
  •  Wed, Dec 09 2009, 1:03 AM

    Re: First-Utility

    James I agree it is crazy situation regarding Gas Meters which obviously measure volume to use only this measurement as Data for the Consumer when the charges are expressed in kWh. IMO First Utility have missed an opportunity to convert from Cubic Metres to kWh in their software, before displaying it on the Gas Usage Chart. Displaying both would be even better. For the record it is a requirement to charge for Gas in kWh.

    Users can of course refer to their Gas Bill, provided that it is not an Estimated Bill [at least in the case of FU], and extract the necessary Calculations. If you do not have a Non Estimated Bill a sample Bill is available for download and contains the required information, this may need two attempts because one I downloaded from the F:U site was an incomplete document. I find the best way to handle the Conversion is to place the Calculations from the Bill into a Spreadsheet so that a simple entry of Gas Consumption will immediately produce a result in kWh.

    This example, from the down-loadable FU Bill may help anyone wishing to make the conversion from Cubic Metres [M³] to kilo Watt hours [kWh], simply use your own actual Gas Consumption figure:

    Meter Reading in Cubic Metres 31

    Multiply by Correction Factor 1.02264 = 31.70184

    Multiply by Calorific Value 39.362 = 1,247.84783

    Divide by Conversion Factor 3.6 = 346.62 kWh

    IIRC there is one very short reference in the F:U blurb to the fact that the Gas is recorded daily, appearing immediately after a reference to the Electricity being recorded every half hour. The latter giving rise to the expectation that you will be able to see what you are using half hour by half hour, which as stated in an earlier post is not true.

    With regard to controlling the Boiler I would suggest fitting a Controller which has the ability to provide the override which you occasionally need but on a one off basis, i.e. it would reset to the normal twice daily cycle at the completion of the long cycle. The savings from this would probably outstrip economies made by other means.

    Have I understood correctly James that your Energy Usage Charts are displaying satisfactorily?

    That is without any 'hiccups' or occasional non appearances?

    • Post Points: 5
  •  Tue, Dec 08 2009, 11:03 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    Thanks gelphyn for your post and technical explanation of the gas meter reading which filled in a few gaps of knowledge I had gleaned / guessed regarding how it worked.


    Regarding online 1/2 hourly electricty meter reading availability it is working now after my chase call about the end of November 2009 . It was about a week later on that daily usage gas data appeared, the 1st being for December 5th 2009. I am surprised that the FU info does not state on their website that gas readings are only daily. The result is that on a kwh basis ( which is not displayed from the FU data sadly , only the cubic metre data) , gas usage in December is predictably far greater than my electricity usage but the pattern daily of usage is not visible. See my example below.

    Our combi boiler is on a morning and evening cycle , with an advance button and a once button, which merges the 2 cycles into one lomng one from say 6am to 10.30pm say. The result of no 1/2 hourly gas readings there is a no way to see when someone has inadvertantly switched to the once cycle the night before resulting in an empty house being heated all the next day.

    With hind sight the FU system is not as ground breaking as I thought it would be. I plan to see if the new April 2009 electricity feed in tariff for renewables will work with FU meter system and how, should I install a solar photovoltaic system in the new year . Only 0.07% of FU 2009 electricity supply renewable in the 2008 to March 2009

    • Post Points: 20
  •  Tue, Dec 08 2009, 1:58 PM

    Re: First-Utility

    Sorry to hear your story tick11.

    This thread is getting too long for comfort and I missed reading your post, in the end I decided to add my comments here because I want to find out how many people are in the same boat with respect to Energy Usage Data failing to display.

    Equally it will good to hear from anyone who has not experienced similar problems, pity there is not a Poll system available on this Forum. If there is I cannot find it.

    I have all but given up hope of a resolution from them the folk dealing with the Data Collection & Handling are obviously out of their depth and cannot deal with the situation.

    When the Energy Bills for November appear I will be able to make my decision as to what to do, save money by hanging in until they fold or start to look around for an alternative supplier who hopefully will be able to utilise the new Smart Meters.

    • Post Points: 35
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