REGULAR readers are aware that I gave up on the human race around 15 years ago, shortly after becoming a clone of Victor Meldrew. The society in which I felt at ease has gone for ever and, contrary to the misapplied Labour slogan, “Things Can Only Get Better”, enthusiastically adopted by Tory Prime Minister-in-waiting David Cameron, things are getting progressively worse. They will continue so to do until the UK, currently out of the top 20 places in the world’s league of desirable places to live, plummets even further in the rankings.

This renewed burst of rancour has been triggered by e.on, the giant power company which, like so many monolithic institutions, seems unable to get its different departments to liaise sufficiently to ensure major cock-ups don’t occur with frightening regularity. Either that or a vein of chronic incompetence runs through its entire body, from the top down.

Last January, I revealed that my wife and I had received a written warning that we were about to have our gas supply disconnected by e.on over an unpaid bill of £2,002.66p, backed up by the threat of a “home visit”.

My wife almost suffered a cardiac arrest on opening the letter, despite the fact that we had changed to British Gas more than two years earlier, and had the documents to prove it. I made several costly 0845 phone calls to different e.on departments and received apologies but no written retraction or assurance that the mistake would not be repeated.

Deep down, I suspected it would, because I know the human race, its frailties and blind dependence on computers. Sure enough, in the last couple of weeks e.on have again caused us major problems.

First came a colourful circular, thanking us for getting in touch about our gas supply. I hadn’t. I wrote a snotty letter telling them so and demanding our details be erased from their computers. But things went rapidly downhill.

We have received a gas bill for £2,906.01, which is the original bill for two grand, plus what e.on estimates we have used throughout 2009.

The comedian at the other end of the phone (another lengthy 0845 call) suggested I get in touch with British Gas and instruct them to re-route the money I had paid since September, 2006.

He was gobsmacked when I read out the account number of the final payment made to his company three years ago. He promised an investigation, but probably put down the phone and wandered outside for a smoke. His computer insists that Fred and Judith Shawcross are £2,906.01 in debt to e.on and that machine is NEVER WRONG.

If the demand had gone to a vulnerable, elderly person, living on their own, the shock could have proved fatal. It has irritated and angered my wife and I, even though we don’t owe the money.

But we now live in a world where common sense has gone through the window and conglomerates are bombproof, hiding behind computer printouts. And it is one in which I don’t feel at ease any more.