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Oh the joys of moving house! You never know what you may find at the next, especially if you rent…..well you could end up being charged for gas….even if you haven’t actually got anything that runs off gas! This is my story….
This isn’t going to be a massive op dealing what British Gas can offer their customers, you can read about that at their own or Uswitch.com websites but more a tale of things gone wrong, and as usual, at the cost of the mere consumer.
My first dealing with British Gas was through the letterbox, yes indeed, as soon as I moved in, they sent me an inviting letter asking could I please read my gas meter for them. But there was only one problem, I didn’t actually have a gas meter! So I telephoned them and explained the situation and they said fine, they would remove me from their database. So I thought nothing more.
Then a bill came through for £70 based on my estimated usage, again I telephoned them and they said, no worries they would amend it on their system and cancel the account. Then, guess what!…a red bill came through and I went through the whole process again, and yet again when the final demand came through. This time I was a little more aggressive over the phone and this is when they said that they would send someone round to check that I didn’t have a meter.
PLEASE READ AGAIN: They were coming round to check that I DIDN’T have a meter! What the heck was I going to show them? This became a bit of a standing joke, I told my mates that I would have to show them under the bed, in my cupboard etc… Just in case I had sneakily hidden a gas meter there!!!! Sure enough I received an appointment card for them to check that I DIDN’T have a meter and then a little chap popped round from Siemens (BG’s contract meter readers in our area) and sure enough, after I had showed him beneath the bed and in the fridge (!), he agreed, I didn’t have a gas meter! The electric heating and cooker was probably a bit of a giveaway but I didn’t want him feeling conned, so I let him check wherever he wanted!
So that should have been the end right? WRONG! About 2 weeks later I received another final demand threatening that BG would come round and cut off my gas meter. Fine, I thought, goodness knows what they were going to cut off, but it sure wasn’t going to be my gas meter!!! So again I telephoned and they said it could sometimes be up to 3 weeks before they get a confirmation that I didn’t have a meter, so I waited patiently. Then you will never guess what….about a month later I received a rather threatening letter saying that I had 7 days to pay £70, otherwise BG were going to get a warrant which would allow them to legally force entry into my property. OMG!
You can imagine at this point I was terrified, being at work during the day, I was worried that BG would come round and literally break in, for something that I didn’t actually owe! I started imagining my name on all sorts of blacklists ~ would I ever get credit again, and I sure as hell didn’t want a court case. I immediately got on the phone to them and they looked at my file (even non-customers get files with BG!) and said it had been confirmed that I didn’t have a gas meter and that the payment was left over from the last tenants. I was absolutely livid! They had never actually said anything about payment being owed by previous tenants before, all along I had been told it was a mistake and that they would be canceling it. Had I known, I would have forwarded all of their correspondence to my letting agent ~ instead I was dealing with it as it was my home they were threatening to break into (and as anyone who has ever rented before will know, most letting agents really do not give a monkeys about problems like this, and more often than not, its much quicker to solve it yourself).
I was still worried about BG breaking into my home so I remembered how useful Ofgem (the energy regulator, www.ofgem.gov.uk) were when I was facing problems with TXU Energy. So I sent them an e-mail explaining the situation and saying that I was worried about possible legal action. Once again, I would like to praise the service they offer as within the week I received a letter from BG saying that Ofgem has notified them of the situation (hadn’t I? I guess I am a lesser mortal in the eyes of BG!) and they would be getting back to me.
A couple of days later I received a rather obnoxious phone call from a BG representative, no apology, well, not until I shouted at her about the distress that this incident had caused me! I just couldn’t believe it ~ they were almost blaming me for not having sorted it earlier and getting Ofgem involved! Little do they realise the stress and inconvenience they caused me. I argued with this BG woman for a while, gave her my letting agents address with the threat of “if you ever contact me again…” and managed to squeeze £15 compensation out of them! But I just couldn’t believe how unsympathetic they were, in my eyes they were totally in the wrong, had they told me that the last tenant had an outstanding balance I would have forwarded everything onto my letting agent, but they didn’t bother telling me this until Ofgem got involved. I didn’t even know the property previously had gas! All of this ended about a month ago, and to date I have heard nothing else from BG apart from my £15 cheque.
I have written this as a warning to others, not just of BG as I am pretty sure that other energy suppliers are just the same, but also as a recommendation to involve Ofgem at the earliest opportunity in any dispute. Had I contacted Ofgem earlier, I am sure it would have been sorted quicker, as a consumer standing alone, your voice will often be left unheard. My opinion of BG as you may guess isn’t that positive but as a gesture of goodwill (like their measly £15 cheque!), I have given them 2 stars!
I know the feeling only too well... I did slightly better out of this lot though, managed to get them to waive my £100 bill! This was only after much help from Ofgem etc but still a good result all round!
Ankes-un-amun 02.09.2002 23:18
We left BG because of problems and unhelpfulness. They keep coming round and trying to get us back, but the moment we say we left because of problems with them they leave rapidly. They must know how bad they are. x Cara
chickenbroncitis 01.09.2002 07:53
I would have loved tha case if it went to court. Imagine the judges face when you tell him that you defence is that there is no gas in the house to be cut off.