Turner Prize-winning artist Sir Grayson Perry has criticised EDF, saying the energy firm tried to raise his monthly electricity bill from £300 to £39,000.

Sir Grayson Perry hits out at £39,000 EDF energy bill error
Sir Grayson Perry hits out at £39,000 EDF energy bill error

Sir Grayson wrote on X that the company had tried to take the inflated amount as a direct debit from his account.
Other customers, including journalist Jon Sopel, reacted with similar stories.
EDF said “unusual” direct debit changes could occur when incorrect meter readings were recorded on its system.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme after his initial post on X, formerly Twitter, Sir Grayson, said that he had “out of the blue” received a “sheath of about 15 bills” that added up to £39,000.

The Essex-born artist, who is known for his tapestries and ceramics, said he was told they would deduct the money by direct debit for all of those bills on the same day.

“I just thought it was so bizarre. On Friday, I spent about three hours at least trying to get some sense out of a call centre, but you’re talking to a computer really, so it was very frustrating.

“They just would sort of say, ‘well it says £39,000 – that’s how much we’re going to take.'”

He said the saga was an “interesting fable of the technological age”, with a smart meter being installed at his country studio several years ago despite him warning there was no phone signal at the address.

“The final chapter of the technological saga is I use Twitter to get a response out of them.”

The artist added that he raised the issue because he noted others online were experiencing the same problem. “What is it like if you’re some vulnerable person and this happens to you?” he said.

Sir Grayson, who conducted the interview remotely from his bed, said: “I’ve got the central heating turned right down now.”

Former BBC journalist Sopel, who now presents The News Agents podcast, responded with his own story, about how he was notified that his bill was going up from £152 a month to £18,000.

“Ridiculous,” he wrote. “We’ve now sorted.”

However, he questioned how the situation occurred – a view taken up by various other former or current customers on social media.

Energy suppliers have been taken to task by the regulator Ofgem for the way they set direct debits. But EDF said it was given a relatively clean bill of health by the watchdog for the way it manages its direct debit calculations.

A spokesman said other customers “do not need to worry”.

“These are not related to a wider issue with our billing system and we’ve not made any changes to how we process direct debit changes for customers,” he said.

“Unusual changes to direct debit amounts can sometimes occur when there is an erroneous meter reading recorded on the system.”

He said EDF had “robust interventions” in place to ensure any large increases in direct debits were verified through a human check.

“In almost all such cases, system errors are rectified and prevented, without customers being impacted,” he said.

For the most part, errors on energy bills do not affect customers’ finances, but they can be time consuming and inconvenient. Anyone who is unhappy with a response can take a case to an ombudsman.

Concerns about direct debits have been heightened given bills have soared, particularly since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Millions of people have struggled to pay actual, correctly calculated bills and charities say that many have been forced to borrow money to pay essential bills.

On Friday, Ofgem said customers who could not or would not pay owed suppliers a total of £2.9bn. It is proposing lifting the energy price cap by £16 for a household using a typical amount of energy between April next year and March 2025 to give suppliers the funds to offer payment plans or write off some of this debt.

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