Monday 23 April 2012

British Gas- An Update

Last Monday, I posted about the rubbish time I've had as a British Gas customer, in the hope of drawing it to others attention as a warning, and to force them to get in touch with me.

Well, it did both.

I was contacted by quite a number of people, all of whom have had bad experiences at the hands of money grabbing, customer ignoring British Gas. One guy gave me some very sound advice. 

He previously ran a whole website dedicated to customer complaints against British Gas, and told me my story was identical to many other unsatisfied customers, all of whom have been tied up in unmanageable and unforeseen debt due to lax admin at British Gas headquarters. All of whom feel they have been "kidnapped" by British Gas so they don't lose out on any more customers. Many of whom have been fed lies, half truths and then spoken to as if they are stupid or have just experienced utter rudeness. I'm also not the only customer told that they are being "penalised" or "fined" by British Gas either.

It doesn't surprise me that others feel this way towards their gas and electric supplier, and it will continue whilst there seems to be no steps by government to act upon the companies failings. Surely a sensible option would be that the more customer complaints a company (not just British Gas) clocks up, the lower the bonuses should be for those in charge? At present, it very much feels as if energy companies and other public service providers are a law unto themselves, and can practically charge and treat customers how they wish.

British Gas finally got in touch via Twitter on Monday afternoon, and left a comment on the original post too. 

My original call in April, about 3 odd weeks ago now, had been marked for managerial follow up within 24 hours (or next working day, which would have been Monday). But despite this it wasn't followed up. Same old story. If the company had of contacted me in December, when we had paid back the original amounts, to discuss lowering our amount (as promised when it was first set up), we wouldn't have been in the situation we found ourselves in in February. We also would have been continuing to pay the £150 for the utilities that the complaints manager neglected to set up right. In the same way, if they had of sent out bills from May onwards when we moved in, we wouldn't have been stuck with them due to paying back a debt.

  As it stands, and as I warned British Gas, despite paying the first new amount in March of £150, we have stopped paying due to the admin error, and wont pay again until the situation is rectified. I feel this turns their "held to ransom" customer service style on themselves.

I also spoke to my local Citizens Advice Bureau, and checked other forums for advice too. Yes, they can ask you to pay an amount. However, if they are at fault, as they are 100% in our case, they cannot force you to agree to an amount if you cannot or simply wont pay it. Why should we be out of pocket due to a catalogue of errors? The worst they can do is take us to court, at which point a Magistrate would be able to assess who was at fault and make a decision on how much you should pay back. In some cases, the CAB has told me, they can also quash amounts if fault is on the side of the energy company.

At no point have I tried to dodge my responsibility of paying for energy we have used. I'm also up to date enough with current goings on to know that a family of 2 adults and 2 children under 6 are going to have seen a rise in their energy bills.

I also know though that we have been treated in a way which befits deliberate non-payers, and I don't think that's right.

Back to Twitter and I received another reply via Private message that they needed my account numbers and name of bill payer before they could proceed, which is obviously pretty standard procedure. 

That was when it got back to the disinterested and unhelpful norm of British Gas, as they then refused to communicate via email (for my records), saying they could only deal with the issues over the telephone (God knows why), and they will only speak with my partner too. Who never deals with any form of bill or phone call and always leaves it to me. Not only is Elder deaf as a post in one ear, he tends to say "love" a lot to woman, who 9 times out of 10 whilst on the phone to telephone customer services teams will result in the phone call being disconnected. At one point, a woman told him he was being "offencive" by calling her love, so Elder gave her a list (prior to being cut off again) of what he could have called her which was more offencive. Hence I deal with phone calls.

After giving the phone number (reluctantly) on Tuesday, between then and this morning, we heard- you guessed it- nothing. No phone calls, no emails, no tweets, not a word. Again.

This morning, Elder received an email to his inbox, and I think this was due to the complaint we had left previous to my blog post. It was a standard reply, again saying they'd "look into" the issues involved, and they'd resolve the payment plan. So, now we are still waiting for the situation to be concluded.

In the meantime, we have signed up for online gas statements, and are shocked to find that, despite receiving a letter 2 weeks ago saying we owed £202, this has now increased to £371- we've had no meter readings, no "sorry you were out" cards through the door, no estimated bills arrive, nothing. So we are further baffled by this sharp increase in amount owed. Last month, the amount owed on our gas statement was £350, its now £555. Again, no meter readings, no bills, just a sharp increase. This will need to be explained in court, if it comes to that.

Can British Gas be trusted to charge fairly? On the strength of our prior experience, I say, it's doubtful.

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