Retired art teacher stomps all over npower - and he's not finished yet
Let’s kidnap retired art teacher Robert Bramwell. Let’s grab him in the street, bundle him into the back of a van, then speed him off to a secret location. There, we’ll strip him. Yes, we’re going to strip him… and put him in a superhero costume, cos Robert Bramwell is a big bloody consumer hero.
Fuelled by his obsessive love of spreadsheets and a ‘something’s not quite right about this’ feeling about his npower gas bill, the Carlisle-based maths nut dug deeper into the wonky-looking document, discovering that the unloveable energy supplier had overcharged him by £26.83.
So blimming what, you cry. Here’s what – if Robert’s bill was wrong, he was convinced it meant that the bills of millions of other poor npower punters were also askew by the same amount.
Robert did what anyone with an obsessive nature would do and complained to npower. Probably a bit spooked, they bunged him £50 as a "goodwill gesture" but refused to admit that they’d made a mistake.
Robert then turned to the Energy Ombudsman and consumer watchdog Energywatch. A stunning move surely, because after all, they exist to stand up for wronged customers don’t they? Not this time – the toothless duo more or less ignored Robert, despite the damning evidence he’d compiled against npower.
It took the intervention of the Guardian’s Money section and the BBC’s Watchdog to bring npower’s cute little billing quirk into the public domain – scores of other spreadsheet addicts then chirruped up saying that they’d noticed the same thing.
To cut a long story short, two years down the line and a full investigation has led to Ofgem ordering npower to shell out a total of £1.2m on compensation to overcharged customers. Hurrah!! Er, not quite. Only 200,000 customers have benefitted from the refunds despite the fact that Robert believes that as many as two million people have been affected by npower’s wacky mathematics. Wackematics.
But, like all retired men who need a hobby, Robert’s not giving this one up easily and is planning to take Ofgem (who sound like a RIGHT bunch of shuffling losers to us) to the Office Of Fair Trading, arguing that they’re actually as effective as a jam sandwich to a drowning rabbit because they only listened to evidence from npower themselves during the investigation.
Robert Bramwell, you are a legend. What size cloak do you take sir?