I am horrified after being slapped with a £5,000 utility bill for no reason…they threatened to withdraw money automatically
A MAN has told of his horror after being slapped with a £5,000 utility bill without reason – before being told the money would be taken from his account in just days.
Musanna Choudury, 32, received a letter from the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) demanding repayment of a debt of £4828.14 he says he does not owe.
Alarmingly, the December 15 letter also states that if he does not agree to a payment schedule by January 19, the money will be automatically deducted from his wages by his employer, delivery company Evri.
Musanna, a customer service representative from Leeds, Yorkshire, told the Sun Online: “It brought me down.
“How could anyone pay that in a livelihood crisis?
“It would be worrying for any citizen.”
Adding that the ordeal caused him a lot of “stress and anxiety,” he said, “Putting someone in this position is awful, especially just after Christmas.”
Musanna slammed the letter as “passive-aggressive” and said it would be “more informative if they told me what the hell I owe.”
Invoices of this nature often relate to previous benefit claims, with DWP reviewing claims made during the pandemic to help combat fraud.
He explained that he was on Universal Credit between jobs from March to June 2020 and has never received any special assistance payments related to the pandemic, meaning he has “no idea” where the debt might have come from.
Musanna also claimed he tried to contact DWP’s customer service team but they were closed over the Christmas period.
After the office reopened, he said he called again but was on hold for 45 minutes before giving up.
DWP has since told The Sun Online that they have contacted him and have suspended enforcement of the debt pending an investigation.
A spokesman for the department said: “We have a duty to taxpayers to try to recover overpayments. When we send collection letters we provide full contact details and encourage anyone with concerns to call us on 0800 916 0647.
“We have spoken to Mr Choudhury about the letter he received and have suspended debt collection pending further investigation.”
It’s not the first time someone has been asked by the DWP to repay a debt without knowing why.
Mick Vokes, 48, from Eastleigh in Hampshire, has been asked to pay back £5,300 in benefits which he claimed would help cover the cost of his £600 a month rent during Covid.
Tina Newman, 40, has been told she has to pay back £5,372 of the housing portion of her Universal Credit because she has no lease or contract signed.
And the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has warned that legitimate Universal Credit claims are being unfairly halted due to a crackdown on post-Covid claims.
Rules on how to apply have been relaxed during lockdown, face-to-face meetings have been suspended and requirements for proof of identity and housing costs have been suspended.
Now the government is going back to verifying the details of these claims to ensure they are not fraudulent.
However, requests for Universal Credit or other benefit repayments can be made for a variety of reasons.
You may be asked to repay all or part of a benefit if there is an error in the calculation of payments and you are not eligible or have been overpaid.
But a refund request isn’t always correct, as in this case, and you can dispute refund requests.
What happens if I am asked to pay back benefits?
When you’re asked for a refund, it’s done in a few different ways, according to Turn2Us:
- Make deductions from your pension payments
- Deduct it from the benefits owed to you
- Deduct amounts directly from wages
- Obtaining a court order to collect debts
The amount collected depends on how much you owe and whether you still receive benefits.
You can ask the DWP to reduce the amount you pay back each month.
The DWP can take you to court if you don’t pay back.
If you cannot afford the refund, you can ask Citizen’s Advice for help.
If you think you haven’t paid too much and the refund request is in error, you can ask the DWP to review it again.
According to Turn2Us, an overpayment letter should include the following information:
- How much you were overpaid each week
- For how long were you overpaid
- The sum that was overpaid.
Organizations like Citizens Advice and Benefits and Work can give you free advice and help if you want to challenge a decision.
So that the DWP can reach you and you do not miss any inquiries, you should keep your contact details up to date.
It is also important to respond to calls or emails from the DWP as quickly as possible, otherwise there is a risk that your benefit payments will be suspended or changed.
https://www.thesun.ie/money/10147262/benefits-bill-no-reason/ I am horrified after being slapped with a £5,000 utility bill for no reason…they threatened to withdraw money automatically