Newest Review: ... it has been missed. It's a shamble since I'm not sure who is now responsible British Gas or Dynorod since each ask me to speak to the o... more
~ How to lose money and alienate sanity! ~
Member Name: blue_ashleigh
Date: 27/09/11, updated on 27/09/11 (387 review reads)
Advantages: They have a freephone number - woohoo!
Disadvantages: They will happily take your money, wrongly, with no apology!
Now I will start by saying that this is a comprehensive look at my British Gas experience. If you want to skip the details and get to the points:
* Good points: UK call centre with, generally, helpful staff - on a free phone number; you can arrange for them to call you back if there's a long queue to speak to an advisor; the bills are easy to read and understand; you can see your current usage compared to the previous year's usage.
* Bad points: They are incompetent and will happily gobble up your money unfairly (read on...!)
I can honestly say I will never EVER use British Gas again and implore all my friends and family to ignore the cute little adverts as they are a misrepresentation of the horrendousness that is British Gas! Fact.
I have sectioned the below tale of woe into chapters for ease of reading :)
~ The British Gas Saga...~
I am currently in rented accommodation and have been for the past 7 years. All, apart from my latest house, have been rented directly from the landlord and they have all insisted the same gas and electricity is used in the house - presumably to make it simpler on them when they have people moving in and out.
For the past three years my gas has been supplied by British Gas. Initially when we moved into the property we received a welcome letter outlining that British Gas were supplying the property and for us to call them with an accurate meter reading. I called straight up and provided the meter reading. I was asked if I'd like to set up a direct debit, which I declined as I'd prefer to pay on a quarterly basis. If you provide accurate meter readings and pay for exactly what you've used, you can't be in debt - simple.
~ Paper/ Paperless Billing ~
For the first 12 months or so we received a paper statement through the post. Usually I paid using their automatic payment system which is simple, if a little tedious, to use. You call the free phone number on your bill, enter your account number and then follow the automated messages which confirm your balance, ask how much you wish to pay and then ask you to enter your card details using your phone's keypad. I've never had any problems paying my bill in this way. If you do want to speak to someone you just choose to speak to an advisor rather than use their automated system. You can also choose to pay by SMS, internet/ phone banking, online, at the Post Office, or by Pay point. I've only ever used their automated phone system so can't comment on how well the other payment methods work.
On every bill there's a little box saying "Switch to Direct Debit to save money" - but I prefer to pay for what I've used. As a student I moved house every year, so I'd rather know I don't owe anything than end up with a balance to pay when I move.
~ Setting up a Direct Debit ~
One day, about 12 months or so after being with British Gas, whilst I was happily filing my bills and bank statements (I absolutely love doing this and will store up paperwork so I can spend a full day filing and sorting and colour coding... !), I realised I hadn't had a gas statement for about 7 months. So I rang them up to ask them to send me a bill. The bills are sent quarterly so I'd not been sent the last two statements. The man on the phone explained I'd asked for paperless billing. I hate paperless billing - I know it saves trees and all that, but I keep files of my bills so it's all in one place and there's no chance of me forgetting to pay! I explained to the man on the phone that I don't want paperless billing, so could he please send me my latest statement. After about 10-15 minutes of arguing that I would remember asking for this if I had done so, and insisting that my partner wouldn't have asked for this either as he doesn't get involved with the bills, the man said he'd switch me back to paper statements. Great!
"Oh", he adds, "would you like to sign up for direct debit?". I politely declined and said I'd pay when I got the bill through. "Well", he said, "you do owe us £326, so you'll either need to pay in one lump sum or set up a direct debit and pay it in instalments.". Woah, hang on a minute there, Buster. My bills are usually around £80-£100 per quarter and seeing as I'd missed a maximum of two state I should only owe a maximum of £200 (MAXIMUM). So I go outside and get my accurate bill reading... "No", he says, "that reading is showing that you now owe £365". So, British Gas are saying in the past month or so I've used £40 of gas?
Anyway, I presumed we'd maybe been careless with gas. Perhaps we'd been cooking more than usual and I had been a bit lenient with putting the heating on... So, as I don't have a spare £365 knocking around I agreed to set up a direct debit of £53 a month which, I was told, would cover our usage and pay back the money we owed. To be fair to the man, he was very polite.
Setting up the direct debit was simple - give your account number and sort code. Done. They managed to set that up without any problems... surprise surprise!!!
~ The Incompetence Continues ~
Anyway, the net quarter I get a bill (paper version this time!) saying we were £520 in debit. I called the free phone number again and told the woman I though something was wrong because despite paying £53 a month I was now over £500 in debit to them. She was a little snooty and said that it had been a cold winter so I'd probably had the heating on a lot. By this point I am now refusing to switch the heating on in our single glazed house and me and my boyfriend are wrapped up in jumpers in bed and huge woolly blankets! (Woe is me!)
Anyway, I get a letter through the door about 6 months later saying that due to the amount of money I owe them they are going to put my monthly direct debits up to £73 per month!!! Again, I called their free phone number, and spoke to a woman and explained that I couldn't possibly be using that much gas and I just don't have that sort of money to pay out. The lady informed me that as I had used the gas, and they had done a meter reading recently to check, I had to pay the money. However, she said she'd arrange for someone else to come and check the meter in the next few days to make sure.
Surprisingly I did not hear back from them.
~ More Incompetence... ~
Another 4 months later I had a phone call from British Gas. "Hello Miss Blue_Ashleigh, due to the amount of gas you're using and that you're in £613 in debit to use, we're going to increase your monthly payments to £118 per month". By this point I am tearing my hair out. I don't have a fantastically well paid job and £118 per month on gas alone is a huge amount of money. Not to mention the fact I'd been a mad woman shouting at my boyfriend to hurry up out of the shower, not having the heating on (even in the SNOW), limiting our gas cooking...
I should point out, on the bottom of the gas statements there is a 'last year's usage' and a 'this year's usage' in an easy to understand bar chart. On our quarterly statements it was showing that this year's usage was 4 times that of last year. I questioned this with the operator who agreed that it was an usual change in gas usage. She took my latest meter reading, but confirmed that I was indeed using over 4 times the amount of gas I had used the previous year.
I then started going round the house sniffing in case I could smell a gas leak! But no... (thank fully, I suppose!). Our boiler was regularly checked, as it was a rented property, so I knew that wasn't faulty.
Anyway, as there's nothing you can really do I ended up paying £118 every single month. At least I would still have gas and we planning to move out shortly anyway. Although the thought of having to pay off a massive bill when we moved was weighing on my mind.
~ The Lack of Communication British Gas Bestows on Customers ~
Then I received a statement which was for the Bill Period: 01 Jul 08 - 16 Jun 11. A bit odd, I thought. Anyway, I sat down and read the 7 page bill. At the bottom: "Your new account balance: £849.48 in credit". My first thought was, blooming heck they owe me £849.48 fantastic. Moving swiftly onto, THEY OWE ME £849.48 AND I HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING TO PAY BILLS FOR THE PAST 2 YEARS. Deep breaths.
There was no covering letter saying they had got the bills wrong. Nothing.
So I called them. AGAIN. "Oh", the man says, "how odd... let me have a look..." (tumble weed rolls past) "let me speak to my manager". After about 5 minutes he comes back onto the line and says that they had thought I was on a metric metre, but actually was on an imperial metre so they thought I had been using more gas than I had. (Still no apology I hasten to add!).
To be fair to them, I requested my money back and within 5 days it was sat in my bank account. I am fairly sure if I had moved out before they had got to the bottom of this I would not have got my money back! It is unbelievable that someone comes to read the meter but they can't tell the difference between metric and imperial readings. Anyway...
Two months later I moved out of that property into a new one... leaving British Gas behind! I called up when I moved to give my last meter reading and settle the account (a whopping £23 for the past two months!). Done, dusted, saga over.
But no... still they plague me!
~ The Inability To Close Your Account ~
I had a letter from them which had been sent to my previous address but redirected by the joy that is Royal Mail! "Dear Miss Blue_Ashleigh, we hope you're settling into your new property and we're glad you've chosen to use British Gas." Hold up a minute, are they suggesting I have opened a new account with them but at my old address??? Yes, yes that is exactly what they had done. Dimwits. The man was very apologetic and said they had been mistaken - clearly I would not move out on 1st September only to move back in on 20th September. So he said he'd closed it all down and that's the last I would hear from them. Sorry.
Today I had a letter saying 'Your gas statement - actual' for the previous property but sent to my new address. WHAT!? I call up... yet again. The rather rude man said I owed them the money. I explained I'd settled my account (£23) when I closed my account. Apparently they had not taken that money. So I went online, and true as he said there was no payment to British Gas at the start of September. He assured me that once I paid I would not hear from them again. I agreed to pay if British Gas did not contact me futher!
He finished the call by saying "Would you like me to change the supplier on your new property to British Gas?". I politely, and reservedly, declined.
~ Concluding remarks ~
Current price I've been paying is 8.454p per kWh - for a two bed, terraced with minimal gas usage it costs (when they charge us correctly) about £20-£30 per month.
Yes, they have a free phone number. Yes, they are based in the UK. Yes, their bills are easy to read and understand. However, that does not excuse their complete inability to provide the customer care they should.
If you wish to torture yourself, please visit the British Gas website and request they supply you with gas: http://www.britishgas.co.uk/products-and-services/ energy/our-tariffs.html. You can also deal with your account online should you so desire.
Summary: Please do not use British Gas - not even if they offer you gold nuggets!
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