Shock at £110 Sky bill for Alzheimer’s pensioner from Leeds

Rachel Holdsworth. Photo by Jamie Drew.
Rachel Holdsworth. Photo by Jamie Drew.
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A LEEDS pensioner suffering from Alzheimer’s was paying more than £100 a month to Sky – until his niece raised the issue on Twitter.

Rachel Holdsworth was shocked when she saw a £110 payment to Sky on her 72-year-old uncle Rodney’s online bank statement.

She tweeted on Monday: “Yo, @SkyHelpTeam, what kind of package would someone have to have to be paying you £110 a month?”

Ms Holdsworth, 39, was overwhelmed with the response on Twitter as more than than 1.5m people viewed her tweets on the issue.

Sky has now halved her uncle’s monthly bill to around £55 a month.

Ms Holdsworth said her uncle, a retired clothing factory worker who lives in Armley and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago, was paying for phone line rental, evening and weekend calls, TV packages including sports and cinema, HD mix and multiscreen. Ms Holdsworth was able to get a discount applied to her uncle’s account after speaking to Sky.

She said: “It turns out he probably took out a bunch of packages when they were reasonably priced, but over time the deals have expired and they have just got more expensive and he hasn’t thought to query it.

“In the same way that people are advised to shop around for their gas and electricity, the onus is on the customer to not be fleeced. I think it’s wrong, especially when the customer is vulnerable.

Ms Holdsworth said she is also investigating her uncle’s energy bills as he is paying £60 a month each for gas and electricity.

She added: ““Whether by accident or design, not just Sky but also energy companies, are profiting from people who either don’t know how or are unable to call and shop around and check that they are getting a reasonable deal.

“He will trust these companies. They are in positions of authority. He will trust that what they are charging him is what they should be charging him.”

A Sky spokesman, said: “Having looked into her concerns, we’ve been able to reassure Mrs Holdsworth that her uncle’s package has not been changed or upgraded since he took it out four years ago.

“We’ll now work with Mrs Holdsworth to ensure he is on the best package for his needs.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “This story is unfortunately all too common. While older consumers are just as diverse as younger ones, there are rising numbers of older people living with conditions such as dementia – and we know from our own research that 300,000 older people are dependent on other people for support with banking services.

“Our advice to families would be to consider options such as a power of attorney well in advance, as it allows another family member to be notified about financial matters and included in the decision making process.

“However, companies also have a responsibility to make sure that their customers truly understand what they are signing up for, exactly how much it is costing them, and how to cancel - particularly if they are not online. There should also be support in place for customers who may be in vulnerable circumstances, for example those with health conditions, in financial hardship or going through a difficult time such as bereavement.”