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Stopped Direct Debits Trigger Debt Collection Woes at Shell Energy

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019 (7:38 am) - Score 6,173
Shell Energy Broadband

A few of Shell Energy’s UK broadband ISP customers, seemingly including some of those who were previously with First Utility before the recent rebrand, complain that they have been hit with letters from Debt Collectors after the provider appeared to stop taking automatic payments via established Direct Debits.

Just to recap. First Utility, which supplied over 700,000 UK households before the change, agreed to sell its business  (valued c.£200m-£300m) to Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell Petroleum Company Ltd. in 2017 (here). The sale was recently followed by a move to re-brand First Utility to Shell Energy in March 2019 and the latest problem began shortly after that.

Since then a small number of Shell Energy customers have informed us (as well as posting sporadically on other sites / social media) that the company appeared, without any warning, to stop taking payments via their existing Direct Debit (i.e. the DD is still active, it just wasn’t being used by Shell).

The first that those affected knew of this was when Shell Energy’s debt collection firm of choice – Corporate Debt Solutions Global – sent them a letter that threatened disconnection of the service due to non-payment, which as you can imagine will have come as quite a shock.

The issue doesn’t appear to be widespread (we’ve only seen a handful of reports), although upon contacting the Debt Collection firm one of those affected was told by the company that they had experienced an “influx of Shell customers being passed on to them [due] to the Direct Debits being stopped by the banks.”

Bianna, Shell Energy User, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Because of the rebrand, their Direct Debits stopped working, and I’m being told that many customers, me included, have accumulated arrears and been passed to debt collection and are being threatened with disconnection due to non-payment – except the Direct Debit is still in place, Shell Energy just didn’t collect any payments for the last 2-3 months.”

Bianna added that she and her husband, after complaining about their treatment, then paid off the outstanding balance but were soon sent another letter, which this time said that their broadband and phone service would be disconnected. Shell apologised to the couple and told ISPreview.co.uk that this is because the letter her husband received was issued prior to Shell Energy receiving payment on the outstanding balance.

The energy and broadband provider has spent the past couple of weeks investigating why these and other direct debit payments failed. Shell Energy has now confirmed that a total of just 26 broadband customers were found to have been affected by the same problem.

A Shell Energy spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“It appears that this issue may have been the result of customers updating their direct debit details within the three day cycle it takes for Bacs Direct Debits to clear, leading their payments to fail. We apologise that Shell Energy did not spot this problem had occurred sooner and for any inconvenience or distress caused.

We have now fixed the problem on these customers’ accounts and will be contacting them directly to update. We have also put in place wider control checks to prevent similar issues from happening in the future.”

Sometimes Direct Debits do fail, although generally consumers will expect to be notified of missed payments by their provider at the first instance and it’s highly unusual for that process to instead skip to a Debt Collection agency as appears to have happened above (these are usually only deployed as a matter of last resort).

The use of a Debt Collector may in some circumstances also result in a negative mark being put on the customer’s credit file and hopefully this is something that the company will check, particularly now that the problem has been identified and corrected.

In fairness there’s also something to be said, particularly in this age of banking fraud and scams, for keeping a close eye on the bank account that you use for making such payments. Good management of a personal bank account can help to spot problems before they become too serious.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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10 Responses
  1. Avatar Martyn Thompson

    Ah I had this with an old first utility bill with these, I paid a token payment by card and they set up a direct debit as I saw it on my bank account but I was getting threats constantly via text message of debt collection if not paid etc. Phoned them the other day and they have setup a direct debit but never admitted to this failure.

  2. Avatar Lisa barber

    I am currently going through the same thing, they didn’t take my payment for a whole year now my debt is 1,879 I told them I never received any correspondence and every time I paid manually it said it went through, now they have threatened me with bailiff even tho once I was informed of the name change I rang them came to a monthly agreement as they admitted fault and now even tho I’m paying it the sent me another threat saying there are going to seek a warrant to gain entry to put thos stupid meters in. I’m furious

  3. Avatar Mark

    This sounds like typical shell broadband, appalling general service and customer service,it took them nearly two weeks to get my fathers internet working, with no communication from them whatsoever,then they offered him a paltry £10 in compensation, it’s a complete joke, avoid at all cost…

  4. Avatar Margaret Freeman

    As a new customer with shell i wish i never changed suppliers. You wait 20mins in phone then are disconnected. They don’t answer e mails. The service is crap. I am so annoyed. Now old supplier is in arrears of £585. Passed on to a recovery team i have no chance of going back. I realised i gave the wrong 1st reading of nearly 2000units over what it was so old supplier has charged me .I feel so helpless.

  5. Avatar Christopher Levings

    I’m upset that no first utility customers including me had any say in the matter of becoming a shell energy customer
    First utility sold our details, our accounts to shell , our names, addresses, bank details direct debits all our private data to shell and I do not see how this can be legal under data protection or indeed any law

    They say the just rebranded first utilty as Shell Energy but we all know they sold us as customers to Shell

    I don’t want to be a shell customer thanks very much and will move my business at my earliest convenience which i think is November

    It was hard dealing with first utility its twice as hard trying to communicate with Shell Energy

    Yes that’d be the sane Shell thats caused more environmental damage across our precious planet than all the other energy giants put together

    We should all leave

    Shame on you first utility and shame on you shell

  6. Avatar Mike

    Just another example of why penny pincher ISPs just aren’t worth it.

  7. Avatar Ken milks

    I use a variable direct debit. I only pay for what i use.why pay in advance.

    I use the facebook messenger to contact Shell and have had good response from their staff who reply promptly but this is only for energy not Broadband

  8. Avatar David Drummond

    I was a long time customer with ‘First Utility’ Energy and Broad Band with a good relationship and service. I was surprised and dismayed with the take-over by Shell and would have expected notice and opportunity of deciding whether to accept and continue with them. However the change has been seamless and at this time cannot feel any difference.
    I am sorry to hear that others have had problems and hope that Shell will address these with a sense of urgency and sensitivity.

  9. Avatar Kelly

    I am currently having issues with these arseholes because they didn’t take any d.d from me n waited 6 months to tell me so and now they want nearly 150 a month to pay my bill…..AND trying to charge me nearly 100 a month for usage which they can’t do because they also won’t accept my meter readings so how exactly do they no I use nearly 100 pound a month?!

  10. Avatar Michael

    I know someone who had the same with shell energy, did not take any payments, now 8mts on, still not sorted. Don’t deal with them.

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