WHEN William and Elizabeth Stark woke up to discover £3000 had been taken from their account by Scottish Power, the initial disbelief was quickly swapped with anger.

The unauthorised direct debit came out of their account despite their utility account being in credit on March 31.

The couple, from Twechar, East Dunbartonshire, spent the majority of the day being passed from department to department as they attempted to find an explanation for the charge, reports The Herald. 

While the money was eventually refunded five days after the debit, it took weeks of waiting and claims to the Ombudsman before Mrs Stark was told it was caused by a “technical fault”.

Almost four months later, a ScottishPower spokesperson confirmed it is still “looking into the cause” of the unauthorised direct debit.  

However, the 72-year-old remains concerned the issue is “ongoing” and may be affecting other Scots after she received “no acknowledgement” that the fault was repaired.

“These people have to be accountable to us,” she said. “They can't just treat us like dirt. It’s just not good enough.

“To me that is a very serious fault or flaw in their system, and they are letting it happen.

“That should be something that should be addressed, not just brushed aside. People not knowing there is an issue – it is not good enough.”

Glasgow Times:

Describing the moment her husband noticed the £3000 anomaly in their bank statement, she added that he was “spitting nails”.

What followed was at least five hours spent on the phone – first tackling automated messages before being passed on “again and again”.

Mrs Stark added: “We had no way of knowing whether it was a scam or whether it’s fraud and they couldn’t tell us either. They couldn’t explain it.

“By 3pm, they thought they had resolved it. Then eventually one of them asked my husband if he wanted to speak to the complaints department.

“He waited about 45 minutes and then the line cut off.”

The whole experience, which she described as a “customer disservice”, left her “even more enraged”.

In an effort to find answers, she sent a letter with recorded delivery directly to ScottishPower’s executive. The three-page letter called for answers over how the unauthorised withdrawal could have happened in the first place.

On the day she took it to the Post Office, she was told she was the “sixth” person who had sent a recorded delivery letter to the energy giant that day.

However, after weeks passed without a response, she contacted the Ombudsman for utility companies.

Eight weeks on from the initial issue, the Ombudsman took up her claim and she finally received a call from ScottishPower.

“This person was not aware of any letter,” she said.

Mrs Stark recalled the phone call and said: “She said this is a technical issue. It was said as if because it's a technical issue, it doesn’t matter.

“It does matter, it absolutely does matter. That could be someone’s mortgage payment and then the banks charge if you don’t have the money and you're overdrawn.

“It’s a whole ongoing issue. Not everyone would have that money in their bank account either.”

Glasgow Times:

The Scottish Power employee told the 72-year-old that they would receive compensation, but Mrs Stark emphasised that she was not looking for money.

“I’ve never mentioned compensation,” she said. “That’s not why I did it – I said I wanted an explanation.”

She emphasised that she has no intention of backing down until she receives a “proper acknowledgement of my issue and my letter”.

Mrs Stark is also looking for a “proper” explanation and confirmation that the technical fault has been entirely resolved.

“I think that is only fair,” she said.

“The issue should not be happening in the first place. That’s the bottom line. That shouldn’t be able to happen.”

A spokesperson from ScottishPower said: “We are sorry for the frustration experienced by Mr and Mrs Stark.

“We are aware of a technical issue resulting in an unauthorised direct debit being withdrawn from Mr Stark’s account in March this year and are looking into the cause of the issue. We have been in touch with the customer and Ombudsman to explain this.

We have fully implemented the decision of the Ombudsman, which included issuing a credit of £75 to the customers bank account as a gesture of goodwill in recognition of the shortfall in customer service.”