EDF sent me a shock bill and set debt collectors on me

I moved into a new house in August 2021 and was on a deemed tariff with EDF, but switched to Octopus after 37 days.

I received a final bill from EDF shortly after which was around £40, and paid it.

But in February 2022 I received another bill from EDF, claiming I owed £879 for the 37 days. The £40 I originally paid was then refunded.

When I queried this, it appeared EDF had changed the final meter reading I gave, resulting in the much larger bill. It added around 9,000 kWh in total.

Bewildering bill: Our 21-year-old reader has been sent a £879 payment demand from EDF after it changed her final meter readings – but she doesn’t understand why (picture posed by model)

I have no idea why it has done this. The readings are so much higher that my meters still haven’t hit that number six months after the reading was taken.

I have called and messaged EDF, and sent images of the meter readings I took, but the issue has not been resolved. My details have been passed to a debt collection agency, and I have had a letter threatening court action.

I am only 21 years old, this is my first home and I feel like EDF isn’t taking me seriously.

The debt collection agency possibly turning up at my door any second is scary, and I know this could affect my credit score. A.Q, Surrey

Helen Crane of This is Money replies: I am sorry to hear about this. Energy bills have already risen to eye-watering levels, so I can only imagine your shock when you received a letter asking for hundreds of pounds more out of the blue.  

EDF revising your final readings by thousands of kWh didn’t sound right, especially as you had pictures to prove them, so I attempted to get to the bottom of your meter mystery. 

You have an Economy 7 meter, which provides two different readings – one for electricity used during the day, priced higher, and the other for the night, priced lower.

Yours is also an old-fashioned analogue meter, which has dials representing thousands, hundreds and tens which the customer must add up to get their kWh reading, instead of an easier to read counter providing one single figure. 

Analogue: The reader's electricity meter has a series of dials which can easily be misread

Analogue: The reader’s electricity meter has a series of dials which can easily be misread

Simple: These more common, modern electricity meters are much easier to read

Simple: These more common, modern electricity meters are much easier to read

It’s easy to see how anyone could get confused here, but you didn’t – you managed to work it out and submit the correct day and night readings to both the property’s old supplier, EDF, and your new one, Octopus, when you moved in. 

And yet you were still hit with a bill for almost £900 for just over a month’s worth of power – more than 10 times the amount you expected to pay as a single person in a small property.

Despite doing the right thing and taking photos of your readings, you have now been told debt collectors are on the case, and that you could be taken to court to retrieve the money.


Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackle reader problems and shine the light on companies doing both good and bad.

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When I was about your age, I had bailiffs turn up at my house after a housemate became eligible for council tax, but neglected to pay it or tell anyone – so I know how frightening this can be for someone just starting out.

I contacted EDF to ask it for an explanation.

The issue, as it turns out, is that previous residents of your home may not have been as adept at reading the meter as you.

EDF said the meter had been mis-read at some point in the past. It’s easy to see how this could have been done, as the old-fashioned dials could have hovered between two numbers and the reader simply picked the wrong one. 

This meant they submitted readings which were much higher than the amount of energy they had actually used.

Since that point successive energy companies have been basing their bills on wildly incorrect information.

It seems likely that previous residents did not submit meter readings, and had their bills based on estimates. 

Error: EDF apologised and has wiped the reader's £879 bill

Error: EDF apologised and has wiped the reader’s £879 bill

Energy companies also aren’t allowed to backdate bills for more than a year, which may have prevented the issue from surfacing in the past. 

Once you moved in and did start submitting them, the figures you were providing looked impossible, as they were lower than those the energy firms had on record from years ago.

EDF, therefore, believed your final readings to be false – which is why it based your bills on estimates calculated on the higher past readings, and you ended up with this bumper bill.

It said the readings it got when the previous owner signed up to EDF also look to be incorrect in light of your new ones, so this may have been going on for many years. 

EDF has recalculated your bill, arriving at the end figure of £79. As an apology for the stress it has caused you it has also wiped that charge, meaning the bill is fully settled. 

I’m glad it’s been resolved, it’s just a shame it couldn’t have done the right think in the first place and investigated rather than go down the heavy handed approach.  

Rage against the machine: Shirley's new washing machine kept breaking down ¿ but AO.com was quick to send a replacement which worked much better

Rage against the machine: Shirley’s new washing machine kept breaking down – but AO.com was quick to send a replacement which worked much better 

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Every week, I look at the companies who have fallen short when it comes to customer service, and those who have gone above and beyond. 

Hit: Reader Shirley was awash with praise for the white goods retailer, AO.com

She expected to be put through the wringer when her new washing machine kept breaking, but the online store proved its customer service was top-drawer. 

Shirley said: ‘I bought a Zanussi washing machine just over a year ago from AO.com. It proved to be a nightmare of a machine with so many faults developing. 

‘I tried to contact Zanussi with no joy, but got in touch with AO.com and it provided me with a brand new Hisense machine, delivered installed and old machine removed, and it is a much better washing machine.

‘I would recommend using AO.com for complete peace of mind as the after-sales service is second-to-none.’

I’m happy to hear that getting your replacement machine was more of a quick spin than a long cycle. 

Mail mishap: Reader Joyce kept receiving demands for payment from a debt collector working for energy firm Bulb ¿ despite never having used the company

Mail mishap: Reader Joyce kept receiving demands for payment from a debt collector working for energy firm Bulb – despite never having used the company

Miss: Yet another reader is ready to blow their fuse at an energy firm. 

Joyce got in touch to say she was being sent payment demands in the post from a debt collection agency working for supplier Bulb, which is now in administration – despite never being a customer of the firm.

The letters were addressed to the legal owner of her property, with her correct address printed on them, so like our first reader she was worried about the possibility of a debt collector turning up at her door.

She called the collection agency to try and sort the issue, but says the person on the other end refused to speak to her when she would not hand over her personal information.

She also spoke to Bulb’s debt collection department, which said it would pass the message on and stop the letters – but she still kept receiving them.

Joyce was about to go into hospital for surgery and said the constant letters were leaving her stressed out.  

I contacted Bulb to ask it to pull the plug on these communications once and for all.

A Bulb spokesperson said: ‘We’re sorry that a debt collection agency working on our behalf sent letters to Joyce’s house by mistake.

‘We’ve made sure that all communications have been stopped, and have offered Joyce compensation to say sorry.’

Joyce told me she didn’t want money – just reassurance that she wouldn’t be contacted again. 

She took the £30 offered, and donated it to the DEC Ukraine Appeal. 

I’m glad that something good came of this sorry saga.  

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