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Have you ever been fooled into signing what you thought was an innocent enough form to find out you have signed a contract to change energy supplier but even more scary is the fact that all fields for personal information and details have been left blank, for what? A bit of a worry isn’t it. I have, it all happened a few months ago when the door knocked one evening, to find a guy waiting there, so full of it. Have you had one of these come through your door madam? As he waves this A4 sized booklet in front of me ……………… Urm ……… no! We don’t have gas I explained, we only have electric, which we used SWEB for ……………… Oh well you should have, they have been sent out to everyone, it’s so you can start getting cheaper gas/electric but you won’t be able to have your electric cheaper if you haven’t had one of these forms and sent it back ………………………. But we don’t have gas, we have electric and we don’t use you, we use SWEB!! ……………………….. Oh well that’s who we are. Why he had to say that I did find a little odd but in my moment of taking in the strong smells of bull s**t and a moment of weakness thinking that perhaps this was for real, I ended out signing a bit of paper to entitle me to start getting cheaper electric ………………………………. Only when we come from the door and took a closer look at the form we found that what we had signed was a contract to change over energy supplier!!
I was seriously p***ed!! My immediate reaction was to call British Gas the following day to explain about the underhandedness of this sales person’s tactics in order to obtain my signature and for the cancellation of any change over before it was too late. The lady I spoke to was very concerned (so it does go to show not all the staff follow a bendy path), I simply explained what had happened the previous night, gave the sales persons name and reference number for it to be dealt with. She could apologise enough, and as far as I was concerned the matter was closed.
Shortly after I found post that was previously mailed to the former tenants was now being addressed to me too ……………………………… Instant file system takes over and the letters get trashed. Then another one arrives, followed by a few more …………………. Time to get my vocal cords in order for another phone call!! So I ring up British Gas once again, explain once again that we are not a customer!! And have never been a customer in all the time we have lived here, never once had the need for gas but more of a need to have the meter taken away but we have been there before to be told that it would be hassle and costly for any one who moves in after us wishing to use gas ………………….. So please stop sending bills and correspondence to me or your letters will get trashed in the bin and will be ignored just like the others.
Everything was quiet for a while, that was until we had a visit from an inspector/meter reader who had came to check up on the equipment (meter). You’re not using any gas are you? Nope I replied and don’t intend to either, one bill is enough as it is. In that case madam, I will make arrangements for the meter to be taken away. Ideal I thought at least I can stick my bin there now, I though (I know I am easily pleased)
About a couple of weeks later a guy from Transco called out of the blue to remove the meter, and within a couple of minutes it was taken away. So why was I told it would be hassle and costly to re-fit when is was a simple task to remove taking less then 2 minutes? Perhaps it’s because they could sting me for what was about to happen!!
Having lived in the same council property since October 1998 and only having the electric connected, I was rather shocked to receive a final bill addressed to myself (no former tenant’s names this time, perhaps that’s why this one didn’t end out in the bin) for the sum of £30:98 from British Gas yesterday. Lets just say, the short but frank letter saying ‘Please pay now’ did wind me up somewhat, enough to want to have a show down with whoever had the misfortune to answer my call, it wouldn’t be the first time for British Gas to feel the sharp end of my tongue and it probably wouldn’t be the last either.
Carefully studying the final bill, this apparently was for the period from the 4th of April 2000 to the 5th of June 2002. There was nothing saying what these charges were for, no gas used, and no cost to supply gas (standing charge), yet an outstanding balance of £30:98 had been brought forward but for what? Let’s just say it’s a bit hard to get an electric cooker to work from a gas supply just as it is with electric storage heaters.
Having looked, and looked at the bill, I have to say I was a little confused at this point and still very annoyed. It is hard enough to pay the regular bills, let alone some trumped up bill that had come totally unexpected. I proceeded to phone up British Gas, using the telephone number given on gas bill.
Ring, ring ……………………….. Stupid automated service …………………. Yeah, yeah just get on with it …………………………… Please make your choice now and if you don’t have a touch tone phone, please stay on the line. Hmm choice number 2, query a bill that should do for starters, now all I have to do is talk to someone human. After a fairly short time (I know a shock isn’t it) waiting for a human, I was connected up with some guy, who I have to say was polite during the whole course of my fuming call, but perhaps a little too quietly spoken, needing me to say ‘you what?!’ a couple of times.
After giving all my usual details, name, address, postcode, oh and my customer reference number (odd really as I am not a customer), he started to look deep into why I should have received a bill from them. After a period of time being left on hold and listening to some really depressing music, he finally came back with the answers. I was expecting him to say it was a computer cock up (just like most companies use as an excuse), but to my disbelief, this charge of £30:98 was for a standing charge for just have a meter in our place, regardless of whether it’s being used or not!! I was pretty shocked, and even more shocking is, these standing charges for equipment are no longer in force, yet the man said ‘I would stay have to pay this bill’ To which I refused to and requested that they give me the address, telephone number or web address of the consumer watchdog for gas and electricity supplies. After a minute or two, I was given a telephone number, said my goodbyes and proceeded to make the 2nd call of the day.
Immediately I rang this number, to find that the number had changed, but as luck would have it there was also a message on the end of the line giving me another number to call, as it has changed. Strange that I should be given this number from what we are lead to believe, helpful and knowledgeable staff, especially as it is totally different from the one printed on my bill. Perhaps it was an honest mistake, or perhaps it was to stall me, who knows!! All I know is that under no circumstances would I pay this charge, why should I? It’s not like we were informed of these charges in all of the time we have lived here, if you ask me I think they should pay us for all the wasted phone calls that have fell on deaf ears and for all the annoyance they have caused on more than one occasion.
However on with my call to Energy Watch, once I obtained the correct number, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my call was answered very swiftly (after listening to the initial menu selection for correct department) by a very polite lady, who explained who they are and what they are there for. I explained what issues I had with British Gas and gave a few details along with my contact number. The lady then went on to go through all the details again, to make sure that everything was correct or anything that may have been missed could be added but at the same time, showing interest and a sympathetic ear to my ranting. Once all the details were checked and doubled checked, she went on to say what would happen next, explaining very clearly that I would be contacted by phone should they need to ask any further questions in the next couple of day, or that I would get a letter keeping me up to date with any kind of steps they felt appropriate to clear the issue up, and then given a reference number should I need to contact them. Now how’s that for efficiency!
So when I get a phone call no less than an hour after my initial call, I have to say I was surprised and impressed. Not only is this watchdog efficient but they make you feel that you have a say and most of all your say does matter and does get listened to. The phone call was from a very pleasant chap, who I have to say was not in the bit shocked with my complaints made. He went through everything again with me, like the previous lady and explained what steps will be taken next, how long it normally takes and what they are going to put forward to British Gas on my behalf as a way to see an end to the whole issue.
Now all I have to do is wait for approximately 14 days for hopefully the bill to be scraped and a nice butt kissing apology from British Gas.
Update: 17/06/02 ---------------------
I received a letter today from Energywatch, not bad going since I only phoned them on the 12th June. The letter is one that they sent me to ensure that I am kept up to date with any developments or so regarding my complaint. In my letter a got a copy of a letter they have sent to British Gas on my behalf, stating my complaint and giving them a few suggestions for them to consider when trying to resolve my issues.
These are as follows:
Consider cancelling the bill for Standing Charges in view of the customer's long stated wish for the meter to be removed.
Provide an apology for the behaviour of the salesman.
Address all issues raised by the consumer.
Address the level of consumer service provided.
They have also requested that a written response reaches them within 10 working days. So with any luck British Gas will take into account the above suggestions and we can all reach a final solution to the issues that have taken place.
*I will do a final update once I have heard the response from British Gas*
Useful contacts if you have any complaints regarding British Gas ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If for any reason you are not satisfied with any aspect of the service provided by British Gas, you can write to their complaint’s management team at the following address:
Complaint Management Team British Gas Admail 3112 PO Box 927 London WC1V 7QZ
If for any reason you are not satisfied with any outcome from the complaints management team you can request for the matter to be brought to the attention of British Gas’s complaints review service at the following address:
Complaints Review Service British Gas Admail 3112 PO Box 928 London WC1V 7QZ
Or you can contact British Gas direct by phoning 0845 603 0188, which is to answer any questions, I am sure with their try to answer queries on the spot statement, that if you had a complaint they should be able to put you through to the correct department to deal with any complaints you may have.
Should you for any reason have any cause to feel any dissatisfaction with the way your complaint has been dealt with or the lack of a conclusive end to the matter you can take matters further by contacting Energy Watch which is an independent gas and electric consumer watchdog. They are there to help with any consumer complaints and issues you may have with your gas or electricity supplier both as a customer and in my case as a non-customer. They can be contacted by the following means:
Telephone: 0845 906 0708
Textphone: 0845 758 1401
Fax: 020 779 8341
Address: Energywatch Head Office 4th Floor Artillery House Artillery Row London SW1P 1RT
They have quite a few offices that deal with specific parts of the UK, so if you would like to obtain the address closest to your area than you can go to http://www.energywatch.org.uk where you can find all the relevant contact addresses by clicking the contact us link from the left hand side menu. The site is packed full of all sort of advice and steps to take should you ever feel the need to have cause for complaint.
My final thoughts: ---------------------
Has the competition become so much for the dominating giants of gas, that it has come to petty bills being sent for charges that have never been knowledgeable to us until yesterday? Are they really doing so bad that they need to pester a non gas user for service charges of a meter existing in our council property? When we have on more than one occasion have asked for the gas meter to be removed due to it not being utilised, only to be told that if we ever moved property it would cost to much for a new one to be re-fitted, should any future tenants need to have a gas supply! I would have thought with all the years behind British Gas that they would operate by a clear cut system and not slap us non-customers with hidden charges for something that is not being used. I used to think of British Gas as a respectable company, where I never once had any cause for complaint, but then that was over 5 years ago. Not only have they forced this bill upon me, of which I refuse to pay, but have employed some underhanded sales people that have also manage to get me to sign a un-filled form, which ended out to be a blank contract, who knows what details could have been filled in all the fields on the form and once again it would have been un-knowledgeable. I am only glad that I have now taken the steps to help put a stop to any more of their crap by getting in touch with the appropriate gas and electricity consumer watchdog.
For any one out there who has in the past had unresolved complaints and issues with British Gas or other gas and electricity suppliers I would advise you to check out Energywatch by visiting their web site at http://www.energywatch.org.uk I can’t guarantee the results you want but what I can say is that all complaints are dealt with efficiently and effectively. Also if you have been thinking of changing to British Gas or any other supplier, I found the site very resourceful for any news related stories that should be of interest and read before entering into a contract that is hard to break from.
My advice is don’t let sales people pursue you until they get you signing that dotted line. Gather as much information as you can and allow yourself time to compare between companies before you do the approaching yourself. That way you can’t be blinded by misinforming sales people or by sales jargon as you have done your own custom research on what you want to know and not what they would like you to know.
OMG! I looked at your profile and immediately saw this and my goodness how it reminds me of what I am currently going through with BG myself. Not only am I having problems with TXU, I am also having MAJOR problems with BG! When I moved into the property they sent me a bill for gas despite not even having a gas meter in the property. I kept ringing and explaining, they kept sending me out bills! In the end they sent someone round to check that I didn't have a meter! (what the hell was I supposed to show them I don't know but I let him look everywhere even under the bed! LOL!). I am still getting bills and today received a threat of them getting a warrant to enter the property and take goods to the value of the bills! I mean, I haven't even got gas (I didn't sign anything either!). Thank God for Ofgem! They are in the process of helping me to sort it out. I am now asking for compensation and am still fearing a bailiff breaking in when I am at work. Its unbelieveable the amount of stress that these incompetent companies are causing us isn't it.
chunka 08.07.2002 00:58
I've never heard of these, and after reading that I'm really glad! I wander whether it's worth making a phonecall to a certain head office in London? Chunka X :D
sue.51 23.06.2002 19:57
Nightmare - I had a particularly horrendous experience with SWALEC gas that left a bitter taste in my mouth and I am afraid a confirmed customer of BG - but all these companies seem to have been able to get away with murder since privatisation.