Thursday, August 24, 2023

Is There A Worse Energy Provider In The World Than OVO? A Letter to OVO CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick

This is Stephen Fiztpatrick, the boss of OVO Energy, which is consistently rated as one of the worst energy providers in the UK.

Anyone unfortunate to have their gas and electricty supplied by OVO will know what a truly awful company they are.

In my experience, and the experience of thousands of other customers, they care only about profits and nothing about their customers who pay their wages.

Ovo has been fined nearly £9m for sending inaccurate bills over three years. My bills from OVO have consistently been wrong, always in their favour, of course.

While OVO was recording losses, he took a couple of million quid from the company to buy a mansion in the Cotswolds. Nice.

And Fitzpatrick faced questions over taking £17m in furlough money during Covid after making £40m of payments and loans to other Fitzpatrick companies

Money, money, money, that's all he cares about.

Anyway, here's a copy of my latest letter to him. I am no longer a customer of OVO, and if you have any sense, I would suggest you avoid the company like the proverbial plague. Octopus is a much better bet! A great company that cares about its customers, and is the only energy provider recommended by Which? magazine.



Dear Stephen,

I have been having major problems with OVO over the past six months so as one Stephen to another I am reaching out to you directly in a last ditch attempt to reach a resolution before I take the matter to the small claims court.

I never chose to be an OVO customer - I was forced into doing business with your company when you took over SSE.

I am sure you are aware that in 2022, OVO Energy was ranked second worst (only behind Utilita) in customer service by Citizens Advice. I wanted to switch to Octopus - the only utilities firm that is recommended by Which? Magazine.

But before I could switch, OVO hit me with a demand for £33,000. OVO made a mistake when it migrated my account from SSE. I tried for three months to get your customer service people to resolve the issue, but failed. It was only when I approached the wonderful Helen Crane at the Daily Mail that OVO apologised, canceled the debt and gave me £100 in compensation. I have to say the £100 didn’t come close to reimbursing me for all the time and trouble OVO caused me.

You can read about that here -

I would have hoped that would have been the end of my problems with OVO, but I was wrong.

I put the flat on the market at the end of 2022. My daughter moved out at the end of December and the flat was unoccupied for most of 2023. I moved the furniture out in June and the new owners took over the property on July 2.

I supplied a meter reading when I moved out, and a photograph of the meter.

Unfortunately OVO refused to use my meter reading and insisted on using its own estimate - 9895. As a result OVO is claiming that I owe them money when in fact it’s the exact opposite - by my reckoning you owe me close to £600.

Latterly I have been corresponding with Simone Watts, who describes herself as an Advanced Resolution Specialist, which is nice, but while she is lovely to deal with she is as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot. This is one of her recent emails.

Simone never did get back to me as promised. In fact she has been on holiday for the last two weeks and no one dealt with her emails in her absence so I have been emailing into a void. I phoned on Friday and had a long conversation with another charming Advanced Resolution Specialist but she was unable to assist me and was not prepared to pass me on to a manager.

She did, however, tell me that according to her computer, I now owe OVO more than £500.

That is impossible.

The flat was empty for most of 2023, with OVO continuing to take more than £220 a month from me by direct debit. Over that period you took more than £1,300 from me with very little gas or electricity being used.

Take a look at the statement you sent on June 28 this year - I was almost £600 in credit.

How do I go from being almost £600 in credit to more than £500 in debt, when the flat is empty? No one at OVO seems to be able to explain that to me!

Look at this -

As you can see, OVO is using an estimated reading of 9895 to close the account.

The true final reading was 9723 - I photographed the meter to make sure there was no mistake!

The difference is 172 cubic feet. 172 cubic feet is equivalent to 5531 KWh. At a price of 10.9p per KWh, you owe me £602.88

I am clearly getting nowhere with your customer relations people, and I am reluctant to bother the Daily Mail again. My intention is to raise a claim in the small claims court to recover the money that you owe me. If you are unable or unwilling to resolve this to my satisfaction within 48 hours, I will raise the claim, and we can both explain to the court where we stand. Stephen, neither of us floated up the Lagan in a bubble, let’s put this to rest now. We both have better things to do with our time.

Best wishes,

Stephen Leather

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The Downfall Of Nick Cohen

I've always found 'journalist' Nick Cohen to be a nasty piece of work. He once used his column in The Spectator magazine to launch a personal attack on me - I've never bought the magazine since. Great to see him finally get his just desserts. He has left The Observer "for health reasons" but the true story behind his departure can be read here. CLICK HERE FOR THE REAL STORY
This has been a long time coming, the story actually broke last year. CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW THE STORY STARTED He is described as a total creep, which I think is a pretty good summation of the man. Cohen is now eking out a living on a website called substack, where he hopes to persuade people to pay him £6 a month to read his ramblings. Incidentally, there is a very good article about the Nick Cohen affair on another substack page. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT COHEN. It's well worth a read and it's free! There is also a Twitter thread worth reading - SEE IT HERE I am a great beliver in karma. What goes around, comes around. Watch this space!

Monday, December 26, 2022

An Awesome Review Of Rio Grande Night

You can read this terrid review of the latest Jack Nightingale thriller - Rio Grande Night - by clicking HERE

Sunday, December 25, 2022

I Have A Bit Of Welsh In Me LOL

I had my DNA analysed a few years ago. They keep updating the results, which is an eye opener. Initially I was mainly English and Irish with a bit of Vioking in me. I was happy with that. Sadly over the years I have lost the Viking connection and gained a Welsh one. Not sure how I feel about that LOL. Less rape and pillage, more sheep and leeks.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Difficulties Of Getting An Agent

Getting an agent these days is difficult. I hesitate to use the word impossible, but for most first time writers I am sure it feels that way. In my experience, most agents lack even basic courtesy and don’t even reply to most writers who approach them. And it’s been that way for many years.

 I wrote to five agents after I’d written my first thriller - more than thirty years ago - and not one even bothered to reply. Even when I had three books in print and was trying to get an agent for The Chinaman, only two agents out of six replied to my letter. If they won’t even reply to a published author and former Fleet Street journalist, what chance does a first-time writer have? 

 I get contacted regularly by frustrated writers who are simply being ignored by agents. I wrote to seven agents late in 2022 about a new novel I had written - only three replied.  And I have sold millions of books! You’re just going to have to accept that getting an agent is no easy task, no matter how good a writer you are or how good your book is. I’m sorry, but that’s the cold hard truth of modern-day publishing. 

 Most agents these days have websites and on those websites they will explain their policy on submissions. When I first started you had to send a pristine typed manuscript. That's all changed, these days it’s all done by email. So send the manuscript, but bear in mind that you also have to sell yourself. You need to convince them that they need to read your work. If you’ve written a thriller, then push your military background if you have one. If you’ve written a book set in a school and you were a teacher, mention that. If you’ve written a crime novel and have spent time in prison, sell that. Push yourself as much as you push your book. 

 The Writers and Artists Year Book has a comprehensive list of agents in the UK, Ireland and the United States. Or you can Google ‘Literary agents who take submissions’. Write to them all. Every one. That’s the beauty of the new technologies, you can send a hundred emails as easily as one. Agents would prefer that you approach them one at at time, but as most don’t reply they have no right to ask that. Write to every agent you can. Dozens. Hundreds, if you want. Emails are free. If an agent really wants to represent you, he’s not going to care who else you approached.

 In your email, promote yourself but flatter the agent. Find out who they represent and tell them what a great job they are doing for such-and-such a writer and that you think they’d be the perfect agent to handle your book. That’s how I got my first agent – I wrote Gerald Seymour’s agent a flattering letter and he took me on. He eventually sold The Chinaman and The Vets for a good six-figure sum. He went on to become an absolute nightmare - about which, more later! 

 Please don’t blame me if agents don’t write back. Most won’t even acknowledge receipt of your email. They can be very frustrating people to deal with. Just keep trying. Keep pushing. Work your contacts. Do you know anyone who works for an agency in any capacity? Did you go to school with someone who works for an agency? Start asking all your friends and relatives if they have any contacts. If it’s any comfort, the publishers I’ve spoken to all tell me the same thing – that if a book is good then it will be published eventually. 

 Don’t forget that every literary agency has several agents, so if one agent says no it’s still worth approaching other agents at the firm. Writing is very subjective, and what one agent hates another might love. So keep on trying! If you are rejected by every agent in town then there are two possibilities – either your book isn’t very good, or the agents are just incompetent. Either is a real possibility. But it might be worth having a closer look at your work, and try to be objective. Maybe the brutal truth is that your book isn’t as good as you think it is. Maybe it needs a total rewrite or maybe you need to start a new book. I think anyone who actually finishes a book deserves a pat on the back for that alone, but just because a book has been written doesn’t mean that it’s publishable. 

 There was a time when publishers refused to look at unsolicited manuscripts. I came through the slush pile at Harper Collins, back in the days when publishers used to love trawling through piles of manuscripts. What changed? Technology changed. I wrote my first novel on an old manual typewriter. It was bloody hard work. And if I made a mistake I had to retype a whole page. Rewrites were a nightmare! As a result, most would-be writers gave up. The process itself sorted out the wheat from the chaff. But then came computers and printers and writing a book became physically much easier. Anyone could write a book. And they did! And publishers were flooded with manuscripts, the vast majority of which were unpublishable. There was so little wheat and so much chaff that publishers shut down their slush piles and handed the selection process over to agents. Agents didn’t have the staff to deal with the tsunami of manuscripts, which is when the rot really set in. Agents abused their power as gatekeepers by simply ignoring most writers. 

 Nowadays publishers are looking at unsolicited manuscripts again so it is worth writing to editors. Just bear in mind that it is a long shot. Again, sell yourself and flatter them and maybe, just maybe, they might look at what you’ve written. But do bear in mind that your email might not get to the editor, it might be intercepted by an eager assistant. And don’t try phoning them – that is a total waste of time. Again, it is worth working any contacts you have. But don’t ask me or any other writer if we’ll read your work – we just don’t have the time and also won’t put ourselves in the position where we could be accused of plagiarism down the line! I know it’s frustrating, but the thing to remember is that nothing worth having comes easily.

 One thing you must always remember is that agents are the middle-men in the publishing world. They are acting for writers (their clients) but the actual money comes from publishers. A writer has only one agent, but an agent has dozens, often hundreds, of writers, and will be dealing with all the major publishers. At the end of the day, an agent is not going to jeopardise his relationship with a publisher for the sake of one writer. Publishers are far more important to agents than writers are, and the writer is always going to come off worst in any conflict unless you have the clout that comes with being one of the really big sellers. That’s a sad fact of life, and all writers should remember it. 

But, there’s no doubt that there are advantages in having a good agent in your corner. The agent can act as a buffer between you and your publisher, so that problems can be resolved without anyone taking it personally. It’s better to have a moan at your agent and let him or her negotiate with your publisher rather than you letting off steam yourself! And it’s definitely true that an agent is better placed to negotiate the financial arrangements – there’s more to a book deal than the advance, and often it’s in the small print that a good agent can really earn his commission. The trick is to find an agent who believes in you and who believes in your work. 

The worst agents by far are those that I have come across in the States. Awful people. I had one who told me he didn’t think he could represent me ‘because I don’t think I would walk through walls for the book’. It was a stupid thing to say – a good agent is a salesman and a good salesman should be able to sell anything. I had another agent from a large agency grinning with pleasure when he told me that he wasn’t going to take me on. They seem to take pleasure in belittling writers, an attitude I’ve always been unable to understand. So, my advice would be to get an agent if you can. Once you have a deal and the big money starts rolling in, watch your agent like a hawk and if they start to take you for granted, sack them and get another. Once you have a revenue stream on offer, you will suddenly find that they will reply to your emails!  Most writers I’ve been are unhappy with their agents but few ever move. It’s like banks. People are reluctant to change banks but they should do so at the first sign of a problem. There are plenty of banks out there and there are plenty of agents.