Mum’s hassles with British Gas

Blue gas flame

What is it about national companies these days. Seriously, does no one care about customer care any more? Are we all just anonymous consumers paying our electronic cash to anonymous, faceless corporations?

Can you tell I’m a little annoyed?

I was on the phone to Mum this evening. She’s really upset: it appears that she has a new pen-pal. Unfortunately it’s British Gas and they keep writing nasty letters demanding payment.

The letters aren’t even addressed to her, they’re addressed to “The Occupier” — how much more anonymous could you get?

When Mum moved in to her new flat in late August she contacted British Gas and said, “Hello, I’ve just moved into a new flat. Here’s the new meter number, here’s the current reading, could I please pay you some money every month to burn your lovely, flavoured gas in my (appropriate) domestic appliances?”

They duly said yes, set up an account and started removing money from her bank account on a regular basis with respect to the phases of the moon.

Letter #1

And then she started getting letters to “The Occupier”. Which of course she opened, probably because she is the occupier.

“Hello,” the letter said. “You owe us money. About sixty quid. It’s for the period early August to late August.”

“No I don’t!” said Mum, “I didn’t live here then.” But the letter couldn’t hear her. So she phoned British Gas instead and spoke to them. “No I don’t!” she said again and explained the situation.

“Don’t you worry,” said the friendly voice on the other end of the phone, “I’ll deal with this.”

She also passed the letter to the building developer. “I’ll deal with this,” he said.

Letter #2

Except obviously neither of them did.

Because on Christmas Eve Mum received another letter saying. “Hello again Occupier, you really do owe us money. And if you don’t pay us then we’ll come and switch off the gas tap to your house. And we’ll take you to court!”

This, of course, upset Mum. And on Christmas Eve too. Bah humbug!

Letter #3

And now she’s received yet another letter.

This time the gas will be switched off, the Police will be summoned, she’ll be whisked off to court and then to a mine in Siberia where she’ll hear wailing and gnashing of teeth (I paraphrase).

It’s just not good enough

Mum isn’t responsible for this bill, yet it’s coming to her door addressed “The Occupier”. She’s told British Gas a number of times what the situation is, and they’ve as yet done nothing about it. Except upset her and threaten her with legal action.

But the point is that they’re really upsetting a widowed pensioner and that’s just not good enough, and whenever she’s asked them for help it would appear that their right hand doesn’t know what their left (or right) hand is doing!

I’m really not at all impressed with British Gas about this — it’s terrible customer care, terrible customer service as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve told Mum to take the letters to the solicitor who was responsible for selling the flat. They should know who has responsibility for this. Get his name and address, I said, and also write to British Gas to tell them who they should really be hassling.

Any other thoughts on what she should be doing, oh wise people of the blogosphere? Mum’s got enough to worry about without this. Like her monthly eye operations, a dislocated toe, heart problems, heating problems…

Prayers for Mum, please oh lovely internet saints. Ta.

Update #1

I’ve now written a letter of complaint. You can read about it on my blog post: The gas hits the fan.

UPDATE #2

In the end, everything was eventually sorted out and Mum stopped getting worrying letters. The accounts were sorted out and British Gas apologised.

Thanks to the diligence of whichever British Gas customer services employee finally took my Mum seriously and looked into the details of her case and actioned them… that action alone helped restore my faith in British Gas. That is the power of good customer service; that is good marketing.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 46 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

9 thoughts on “Mum’s hassles with British Gas”

  1. I had a similar situation when I moved into my flat 5 years ago. Except it was actually addressed to the person who had lived there before, I passed it on (as I know the lady) and phoned the company to explain. They wouldn’t talk to me because I was not the addressee, despite the fact I said I was the new owner. We had various letters, some suggesting legal action etc… I phoned every time, as did my Dad, and we got nonsense each time and nothing changed. I even managed to speak to a completely different company (this time a telephone company) because that’s who the electricity company passed me on to. I still have no idea how that happened. Eventually, they stopped sending letters and the company is still £300 down. I sadly have no good ideas how to help your mother. I hope it gets sorted out though.

  2. Polite but firm letter addressed to the Chief Executive and/or Chairman, by name if possible.

    These guys won’t actually read it themselves, of course, but most firms have a separate process for such complaints.

  3. Gillian Says:

    January 12th, 2008 at 10:39 am
    Polite but firm letter addressed to the Chief Executive and/or Chairman, by name if possible.

    These guys won’t actually read it themselves, of course, but most firms have a separate process for such complaints.

    There is normally (and I’m just going by what happenes in Tesco here) a team that handle Higher Management letters, but the CEO or Chairman may also personally sign them in the end.
    To be honest there’s no point in writing to the company addressed “Dear Sir/Madam”, HM letters will get a better respondse sadly

  4. I’ve had two similar problems with Scottish Power, who did much the same. To be frank, writing letters to the Chairman, or faffing about with customer service is a waste of time. What they’re really interested in is Energywatch complaints, as those are published, and on both occasions, getting Energywatch involved suddenly focuses attention on getting the problem solved.

    I would suggest not wasting any further time with their customer service and look up your local Energywatch number on http://www.energywatch.org.uk/

  5. We’re having a similar problem with another company! Added complexities of being a multi-use building as well as my humble abode.

    How a power company thinks it’s acceptable not to bill people for a year, despite repeated requests, produce the final bill six months after the final meter readings were provided (having got the new account up and running and us paying into it with no problem) is beyond my comprehension.

    I will draw a veil over the mess up of the schedule of paying off of this humongous bill. But it’s been far from straightforward, and I’m left feeling at fault every time, despite it all being their errors.

  6. Customer service is so very important for any company but at the moment I think gas and electricity suppliers should pay special attention to it, as all the their customers are already disgruntled due to the price rises!

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