ONE of the “big six” energy firms, E.ON, is taking a family-run hotel to court in a £50,000 “overcharging” bill dispute.
One of the UK’s biggest power providers, the company has raised an action against The Auld Mill House Hotel at Dunfermline Sheriff Court for £52,000 in back charges.
However, the family behind the eight-bedroom inn, which is classed as a micro-business, claim the firm has been overcharging them for at least 10 years and the true sum owed is just a fraction of that claimed.
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Brent Morrison, who took charge of the hotel after his mother Margo’s death, claims the problem dates back to before 2006 and says he has been unable to agree a settlement with the supplier. Now the case has been frozen by the court as Brent seeks legal aid for the defence.
Ross Taylor, solicitor for Brent and his father Alan, says the pair still aim to come to an agreement after years of trying. He told The National: “Brent and Alan remain willing to find a resolution with E.ON out of court.”
Margo and Alan Morrison, who were childhood sweethearts, bought the Fife hotel in 2000 and aimed to work there until retirement.
However, the mother-of-two was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011 and lost her fight against the disease in October the following year.
The family, including daughter Alana, had begun challenging their power bills before Margo’s death, after which Brent stepped in to help his father.
They claim their smart meter proves they are the victims of overcharging dating back several years, with bills further bumped up as a result of issues regarding tariffs, and say E.ON would not let them exit their contract to seek another supplier, prolonging the dispute. This block has since been lifted.
In 2014, the father and son took solicitor Taylor to E.ON’s offices in Nottingham in an attempt to strike a deal and end the lengthy dispute.
But while the Morrisons believed a deal had been done, E.ON went on to issue a demand to pay more than £38,000 within 21 days or face legal action. The sum has since increased by £14,000. The case is expected to return to court once Morrison, who had originally planned to defend himself, has secured help for his legal costs.
Taylor said the onus is on the power firm to prove they are in the right. He said: “The Auld Mill House Hotel has been a part of the fabric of Dunfermline for decades. The family tell me that for about 10 years now they have felt that they have been paying too much for gas and electricity and have been trying to get to the bottom of this with E.ON.
“In September 2014, E.ON was asked if it would be willing to attend mediation. On November 19, 2014, Brent, Alan and I flew to E.ON’s offices in Nottingham to meet with representatives. Brent and Alan left the meeting feeling comfortable that they had been listened to and that agreement had been reached on the way forward.
“In July 2015, Brent received a demand for payment of more than £38,000 within 21 days, otherwise he would face court action. E.ON denied an agreement was in place. Brent and Alan again emphasised their willingness to resolve matters on a consensual basis. In May 2016, E.ON increased the demand to more than £52,000 and raised court action in August 2016.
“This is being defended. Brent’s position is that E.ON will need to explain how the sums claimed are due, including a demonstration that its calculations are correct.”
E.ON said it has made several attempts to secure a deal with the family. A spokesman said: “We have repeatedly sought to resolve this situation with Mr Morrison, through our internal complaints processes and also through the independent energy ombudsman who ultimately found in our favour.
“We have always been committed to finding an agreed resolution to settle this outstanding debt. As the matter is going through legal channels we cannot comment further at this time.”