A 103-year-old British World War Two veteran is keeping warm under tea towels and wearing oven gloves after an energy firm left him without a working meter for months. Ivor Gardner, a D-Day hero, had a new gas meter installed in April 2022 but it did not work - leaving him with no way of tracking his usage for nearly a year.
During that time, he says OVO continued to send letters demanding readings despite failing to attend Mr Gardner’s house in Chippenham in Wiltshire to carry out repairs five times and cancelling a further appointment. The veteran restricted himself to between four and six hours of heating during the winter because he was worried about how expensive his energy bill would be with no way of keeping track.
He resorted to wearing oven gloves, tea towels and blankets to keep himself warm. Ivor said: “Here I was holding back on what I’m using because I didn’t know how much it was going to cost because they keep putting it up.
“My family has been buying me all this stuff to keep warm rather than sitting in the cold. But it got to a stage where I thought, ‘why should I be sitting in the cold when I can afford to pay for what I’m using and have never owed anybody anything in my life?’”
Despite his efforts to reduce his usage, OVO continued to charge Mr Gardner at an estimated rate which he believes was significantly higher than his true consumption, including a £148 gas bill in December. He estimates that OVO overcharged him hundreds of pounds over the last nine months.
Mr. Gardner’sbill for the period originally totalled £632, while he says his credit was wiped out. Mr Gardner had a new meter installed on Wednesday, January 11, less than 24 hours after he and his neighbour Pete Allaway sent a joint letter of complaint to the Swindon Advertiser newspaper, MP Danny Kruger and OVO CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick.
But with no records of his usage for the last nine months OVO initially suggested the bill be modelled on his usage over the next six weeks. This would have meant Mr Gardner’s bill for last summer, when temperatures reached as high as 40 degrees, would be based off his energy consumption in January and February.
Mr Gardner, who is on OVO’s list of vulnerable customers, refused this offer and after negotiations with the energy company has received a letter of apology. OVO also agreed to write off Mr Gardner’s bill from April to December and he has accepted a £200 compensation fee.
Mr Gardner, a member of the Legion d’honneur for his war efforts, hopes no other elderly people go through the same “anguish” he did. He added: “It’s felt very unfair, why pick on me? I’ve said all along I will pay for what I use but I don’t want to pay for what I haven’t been using. That seems like fair logic.
“I had a lot of credit at one time, but they’ve gradually eaten it away. I was convinced they were waiting for me to die so I stopped complaining”. Mr Gardner was helped throughout by his neighbour Mr Allaway, who spent over 24 hours with him on more than 20 calls to OVO.
An OVO spokesperson said: “We are sincerely sorry to Mr Gardner for the missed appointments. The service he received was not up to the standards our customers should expect from us.
“His meter has now been exchanged and his account balance corrected. By way of apology, we have reimbursed him for his energy during this period and will be issuing compensation to his account.
“We are extremely grateful to Mr Allaway for supporting Mr Gardner and working with us on this.”