24Seven Heaven after financial let-off
ELECTRICITY distribution company 24seven today looked as if it would get a financial let off after last October's storm.It emerged only a quarter of the claims it had expected following the ferocious winds which left many without power have been made by customers.
By Paul Geater
ELECTRICITY distribution company 24seven today looked as if it would get a financial let off after last October's storm.
It emerged only a quarter of the claims it had expected following the ferocious winds which left many without power have been made by customers.
The Ipswich-based company had expected to pay £100 compensation payments to 20,000 customers who were without power for more than four days following the storm.
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In the event, only about 5,000 made valid claims. That means instead of paying out £2 million to customers, the company will only have to pay about £500,000.
Close of business today is the closing date for applications to arrive at the company's offices, and officials aren't expecting to receive more than a handful of further claims.
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"We've done all we could to get people to contact us," said 24seven communications manager Marjorie McFarlane.
"We've told people through the press and in advertising and written to them. We extended the period for claims to be received to three months."
That didn't impress people who had to struggle for days without power in the wake of October's gale.
Lorraine Harrison, from Somersham, received a £100 compensation check after losing power for seven days.
"I got the money, but it really didn't cover the loss and inconvenience we suffered.
"We'd been off for a week, and when they did turn up it only took about 10 minutes to fix the fault – and then we had three teams turn up who didn't realise we had already been fixed," she said.
It had not been difficult to claim, Mrs Harrison applied over the internet.
But she did not think 24seven had made it easy for customers.
"It's difficult for some elderly people and those who are very busy to make claims like this.
"They must know who lost power and who was off for more than four days – surely it wasn't beyond the company to contact them and arrange compensation directly," she said.
The company has had a total of 23,000 letters and other communications about the storm – including many claims from people who were cut off for less than the four-day cut-off period.
"Some of those were claims, some were letters with observations about our handling of the situation," Ms McFarlane said.
The storm on October 27 initially left 515,000 24seven customers without power.
The company's area covers the whole of East Anglia and greater London.
Most customers got their power back within a short period – 86 per cent had their power back within 18 hours.
But about 200 in the remotest areas were left powerless for nine days.
A spokesman for the government's official power regulator OFGEM said it had urged people to claim compensation.
"We have urged customers who think they have a claim to contact the company – there has been a lot of publicity about this, people must have been aware of the situation," he said.
And a spokesman for Energywatch, which monitors power companies, said 24seven should not feel it had "got away with it."
It was still possible for OFGEM to decide that more compensation should be paid.
"The government report into the storm and 24seven's performance was damning – the company needs to know it can still be called to account," he said.