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I couldn’t use heating or hot water for TEN weeks after British Gas supply blunder

A DISABLED British Gas customer went without heating or hot water for nearly 10 weeks after his supply was suddenly cut off.

Richard Stevens, 56, from Aldershot, Hampshire, woke up to a freezing flat with no hot water at the end of January this year.

Richard was on an Economy 7 tariff with PFP Energy, which means he is charged a more expensive day rate and a cheaper overnight rate for his power.

His tariff used a smart meter to monitor his energy usage.

But when PFP Energy collapsed on January 20, he was moved to British Gas – and while the firm does have its own Economy 7 tariff, you can’t use it with a smart meter.

Richard had no way of knowing that his meter wasn’t clicking onto its overnight rate – it sparked an error with the system which cut off his nighttime supply entirely.

Richard and his wife Theresa, 55, were left freezing for nine-and-a-half weeks – until The Sun stepped in.

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“I had noticed how cold it had become – and we had no hot water in the mornings,” Richard said.

Suspecting British Gas had cut off his overnight supply, he rang the energy company looking for answers.

“I cannot count how many phone calls I made to British Gas about this – I was usually on hold for about 45 minutes, then passed between five or six people before they hung up on me,” he said.

Eventually a British Gas customer service worker promised to look into what had happened.

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But weeks passed by, and despite Richard chasing for answers, no one got back to him to explain why his overnight supply had mysteriously stopped.

Richard uses storage heaters – which are electric heaters that you can switch on overnight. These warm up through the night when energy is cheaper and store heat, which is then released during the day.

They are primarily used by customers on time-of-use tariffs – like Economy 7, for example.

Crucially, while they can help you make the most of cheaper night rates, during peak times they are more expensive to run.

It meant Richard was unable to afford to put on his storage heaters during the day because that’s when he was charged a higher rate.

A knee injury has left him with mobility issues, meaning he needs to stay at home most of the time.

As a result, he needs the heating on most of the time, particularly during the colder months – but this year he was forced to turn off his heating through the winter because he simply couldn’t afford it.

“When we got up in the mornings, it was so cold in the flat.

“I couldn’t afford to put the heating on – it was monstrously expensive to run during the day.

“Most of the time I was sat with a couple of dressing gowns on.

“Being disabled and at home all day I need to keep warm, which is what storage heaters would normally do by charging overnight.”

The Sun stepped in to ask British Gas to investigate why Richard’s nighttime supply was not working – and why Richard had been left in the cold for so long.

A British Gas spokesperson said Richard had an Economy 7 smart meter while he was a customer with PFP Energy.

It means that Richard has one meter with two different rates – one for the night and one for the day.

It clicks from one rate to the other between peak and non-peak times.

But as British Gas’ smart meter systems don’t support Economy 7 supplies, Richard should have been switched to a normal Economy 7 meter when he became a customer.

But that didn’t happen, and Richard’s smart meter was never replaced with a normal one.

As a result, his overnight electricity supply stopped working because his meter was not switching over to the night-rate at the appropriate time.

A British Gas spokesperson said: “The customer transferred to us as part of the Supplier of Last Resort process and an error occurred with his Economy 7 meter when he switched to us. 

“We have now visited his property and fixed the issue so he is back up and running with hot water and heating.”

Richard was given £129 credit for the extra electricity he used while having to use his storage heaters during the day.

He also received £250 in compensation.

What to do if you have a complaint with your energy company

If you’re finding it hard to get an issue sorted with your energy company, you should take it to the Energy Ombudsman.

They handle issues between customers and suppliers.

If you’ve tried to resolve a problem with your provider and you’re getting nowhere, the Energy Ombudsman will look at your case and see if they can help you deal with the complaint.

It helps resolve issues on billing, installations and delays, loss of service, customer service, and switching suppliers.

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If they help take your complaint on, they can only help back bill you for 12 months.

That means you won’t be able to get help getting money back before this.

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