A number of customers have been wrongly billed and told their credit rating could be affected if they fail to pay.
An energy firm is carrying out an investigation after a number of customers were sent “erroneous” emails demanding large payments.
Extra Energy blamed a “computer glitch” after past and present customers were sent bills which warned non-payment would lead to debt collectors being called in.
One Hull customer, who does not wish to be named, said she was shocked to receive an email demanding £450.67 – despite cancelling her contract with the firm more than a year ago.
The email, titled “immediate action required”, said failure to pay could affect her credit rating.
It says: “If we don’t hear from you and payment isn’t made, we may share your payment history with our credit referencing agency. This could affect your ability to obtain credit in the future.
“In addition, we’ll transfer your account to a debt collection agency. As a last resort and where we’ve tried all other means to collect an overdue amount, we’ll consider legal debt recovery with any cost being added to your balance.”
Extra Energy have admitted a number of customers have been sent similar emails.
The concerned customer said: “I’d switched providers in December 2016 so was surprised to get the email. I contacted them and they just said it had happened to loads of people and they said it was a computer glitch.
“We all know computers don’t make glitches, people do.
“They were very blase, they didn’t even apologise, they just said I didn’t need to pay. I asked for a retraction in writing.
“Ten minutes after I came off the phone I got a text message to say I owed the money and must pay so I had to call them a second time.”
The customer said she wanted to warn others not to pay if they received something similar.
She said: “What concerned me is if this was sent to an elderly or vulnerable person who may panic and pay – thinking they owed the money.
“This could really frighten someone, it would upset and distress them and it could give them a heart attack. It just not good enough to say it was a computer error.”
The Hull customer also said she believed the firm had breached data protection laws by keeping her email address and mobile number for over a year after she switched providers.
She said: “I wanted to know why they had kept my personal details and they were unable to answer the question.”
Extra Energy later contacted the customer to apologise and confirm she did not owe any money. The firm also offered her £75 as a goodwill gesture, but she declined their offer and asked the company to make the payment to the British Heart Foundation instead.
A spokesman for Extra Energy said: “Extra Energy is currently investigating the error which resulted in customers and former customers receiving erroneous messages, and have a dedicated team dealing with this at present.
“I’m afraid we’re not able to comment on how many customers have been affected by this.
“We can assure you that Extra Energy are investigating the matter in order to ascertain who exactly was affected though.
“Extra Energy carefully follow data privacy guidance on this issue. In general, only essential contact details are retained for up to a maximum of six years on a secure system.
“This means customers who want to get back in touch and find out about their account history (for example to settle a dispute or for switching suppliers) are able to do so.
“If any customers have any questions at all about correspondence they’re received, they are encouraged to get in touch with the customer care team at their earliest convenience.”