Like pretty much everyone in the UK, I’ve noticed that my gas and electric bills have soared higher than a Joan Rivers face lift over the last few years.
From having bills that totalled £100 a quarter, until recently we were paying, on a monthly payment scheme, £172 for both. Which was pretty crap, financially, but it’s either that or no heat or light. Or cooking. You get the idea.
The reason we were paying this way was due to British Gas making a cock up when we moved in back in May 2010. Our landlord’s brother lived in our house with his family, and paid his bills online, with the whole “paperless billing” scheme.
When we moved in, we informed them of the change and asked for the bills to be sent via the post. We wanted to weigh up amounts then switch once we knew how much the gas and electric would cost in this house, as it has two boilers- one for gas, one for hot water.
Then, what with moving in, and general day to day, not to mention settling Mini into a new home, decorating, and Littlest becoming ill again, everything slipped our mind. In December 2010, we received a MASSIVE, and I mean truly massive, bill for both gas and electric, totalling over £1,000. Which, as you can imagine, there was no chance of us paying in one go, not right on the doorstep of Christmas anyway.
So, we liaised with their customer service team, but it took two phone calls before we spoke to anyone who was worthy of the “service” title. This became a bit of theme when dealing with them over the phone- 95% of the staff we’ve spoken to have been at best disinterested, and at worst, downright rude and on occasion have lied through their teeth as well. We didn’t want a pre-payment metre, as we’d had those before and found they con the life out of a person. So, we arranged to pay £150 per month for both. However, we were promised that, as soon as this debt was paid back, the amounts would drop.
In May 2011, we happened to be walking through town one weekend and were stopped by E:On. They promised to lower our bills to under £100 per month, and sort out switching us over. We told them we were paying off a back payment, and they assured us it was fine- they would take on the debt for us, and we could pay it to them.
We then waited for the direct debit to be paid, which it was, and were happy that we had a more affordable monthly amount. Except it wasn’t that simple.
In August 2011, British Gas rang Elder’s mobile and informed us we’d been removed from their payment scheme, and of course, Elder said he knew we had been as we were no longer British Gas customers.
But despite letters to the contrary being sent by E:On, British Gas had left it from the beginning of May to the end of August to tell us we couldn’t move, and had been given a surcharge for non-payment. We argued that they should have contacted us sooner, but they didn’t care. We were now forced to pay even more per month, at £172.
We carried on paying and by, Christmas last year, with paying extra when we could, we’d wiped out the debts. Hooray, we thought.
So, I emailed them and asked for the new amounts to be set. I was asked to send in new metre readings, but had to email back that I couldn’t as we didn’t have a key to open the meter box, its owned by them.
When someone came out at the start of January, I assumed that was why.
Still, no amounts were sent out, so I emailed a further 3 times. Nothing.
By the end of January, we received- you’ve guessed it- a letter saying we’d been removed from the scheme again, and had 14 days to pay off over £400. The guy who came was reading the metre for an updated bill- which we never received.
So, I rang them. And spoke to the nastiest human being ever. He reduced me to tears he was so disparaging. He said we would be “fined” for the amount. That our monthly amount would be “significantly” increased as we were being “penalised” for being “too lazy to pay”. This came a week after British Gas admitted their wholesale gas price had dropped, so I mentioned this and was told I was “stupid” and that the price had “gone up again”. In the end, I put the phone down.
I made a complaint, and , several weeks later, someone called and apologised, and we made arrangements for the new payment plan, which dropped by just £22 pound a month. As a gesture of goodwill, I was promised a £100 credit would be added to my gas account for December this year, and was placed on a lower tariff too (despite us previously being told we were on the lowest tariff). I was also told we’d been misled when we were originally assured the amounts would lower once the bill was paid off.
I duly started paying the new amounts, but by the end of March received threatening letters for my electricity account. So, again I rang their “helpline” (or hell line as I now call it). I spoke to a woman who I could barely understand as she muttered the whole time, and who, despite admitting my previous conversation with the complaints manager was on her screen, along with the amounts to be paid, he had “forgotten” to set it up correctly. Thus, “my error” (? Baffled as to how this clerical error on his part equates to my being at fault at all) would mean she would have to restart the scheme again. She told me we would start paying on the 21st April at a rate of £196. I asked if she meant for the gas account and electric which he hadn’t set up properly.
This was for the electric alone. So, a clerical error meant me finding an extra £146 per month for the electric, on a bill of £202.
I got really angry, as you would, and told her she was having a laugh, there was no way I was being shafted due to a mistake made by someone else. She placed me on hold. On a mobile. So costing me even more. This went on for 5 minutes and she came back and said “can you pay £146?” No, I said, I won’t pay that amount. I told her I would only pay £50 as arranged. She again put me on hold, for ten minutes this time, and I imagine she nipped out for a fag then came back and told me the least that British Gas would take now, despite them being at fault, was £106 for the electric.
I told her there was no way that I was being shafted yet again by British Gas. So she fobbed me off, telling me she’d get someone managerial to speak with me within 24 hours. That was over 2 weeks back, and still no contact. Except we have now been threatened with disconnection, despite being up to date with the amount agreed in February with the complaints manager.
I am sick to death of it. To my mind, they forget to send bills, tie you up in debt, then force you to pay through the nose. And, remember, the whole time they say you owe them, you can’t switch to a cheaper provider. We are stuck.
I am writing this in the hope that British Gas finally does it’s job and gets back to us, with a reasonable offer.
I am sending this to their Twitter feed and anywhere else I can find, so feel free to add your grievances with them below.
It’s about time Customers said enough is enough.