The story. My Dad is pretty old, but until a few years ago was letting some small flats/studios etc. He was paying British Gas via a business account
for gas and electric. 3 Years ago, that business stopped, and the gas/electric accounts closed. We understand all bills were paid.
Then last year, we got a bill for circa £500, with absolutely no explanation. We were told several times copies of the bills it related to had been sent, but none arrived, only ever more threatening letters. I eventually stepped in, and wrote a stiff email saying explain the bill and stop harassing. Then nothing until November when a "Louise Kimber" got in touch asking for the £500. Turns out that a DD wasn't paid (it was cancelled by my Dad, something to to with changing bank accounts) BUT the bill never carried over onto subsequent bills. And we are unsure if it did get paid because of this.
"Louise" has sent a spreadsheet covering some payments, but it is all reference numbers and not meter readings, so we can't work out what was going on.
And then in December, another bill arrived, dated December 2014, asking for £700ish. Again, a complete surprise, with some estimated readings and so on.
I have emailed "Louise" asking for a complete set of copies of bills from mid 2014, and added she should check if they think there are any more outstanding bills they are likely to send.
The troubling part is, if these bills were originally sent 3-4 years ago, they won't write them off under their "2 year" rule. But being so long ago, it is impossible for us to check where the errors are.
Should we expect BG to write this off? I think if they are unable to provide supporting documentation they will have to. We have some of the last bills somewhere, which show none of this money owing. Indeed, these 2 outstanding bills never carried over to subsequent bills. Which is why we are worried there is a billing error.
To make matters worse, parents have move house, though still have the old one while it is cleared out/prepared to sell. But I really don't want to give BG their new address. And my Dad is loosing the ability to speak/write/express himself, so don't want to worry him.
So any suggestions or legal perspectives on this? Best to refer to ofgem? or ask them to take it to County Court (I wonder what a magistrate/judge would make of it?)
(apologies for the long post. It is getting frustrating and my common sense approach has run out of steam )
Sounds a worrying situation for you to be in and certainly unfair for an aging person who may not be in a position to stand up to BG.
As a first step the Citizens Advice Bureau might be a place to start. They may be able to offer some free guidance on how to approach this and who to speak to next. OFGEM may well be one of their suggestions.
I'm currently trying to help SWMBOs aging father with some banking queries he has. Whilst I I don't think the bank have done anything wrong trying to expain this to him is proving somewhat challenging.
Contact the Energy Ombudsman. They helped me big time when Scottish Power decided to charge me around £1500 over 5 or 6 bills which also overlapped
periods with each other over around 1.5 years of gas/Electric bills I had ALREADY paid. They would not give me any reason why this happened nor why
they were recalculating bills that have been paid nor verified the overlapping periods, just a consistent "you owe this money so pay it or
court/debt collectors" no investigation or anything.
Ombudsman stepped in and sorted it out. Can't recall what the settlement was but didn't go to court and think all that was paid was the amount actually owed for the quarter that was outstanding, not the recalculated stuff. Basically meant SP had to investigate things rather than just demand money coz ultimately, we suffer with credit scores or bad reports if we don't do anything and they have reduced profits....at least Ombudsman can result in referral to the correct authorities and fines.
^ good advice
OK, seems ofgem is teh way forward. I presume they can sort though all the information.
"Louise" has replied very quickly, normally it is on a Saturday morning for some reason. (geffo a real BG email address!) with a large PDF folder that I will look at. And it seems the 2014 bill has indeed been paid. Which is worrying. And they are trying to bill again.
More delving required...
You should be able to see what was paid by getting copies of bank statements, these can be obtained via a online search, writing to the bank or going to the bank in person.
You say they were paid from a business account, did your father use a limited company to rent the properties? If so the problem is between British Gas and the company not your father personally.
I would bet its a scam, as do they know the address's of all the properties ?
have a look at the following website for more info on utility bills
I don't think you can involve the ombudsman until you have exhausted BG's own complaints procedure, but certainly worth talking to Citizens
advice, I think they are chancing their arm on such an old bill, as you say, it makes it almost impossible for you to check.
If it was me I would fight it all the way to court if necessary, I find it highly unlikely any judge would find in their favour unless they can prove theyt have been asking for the money all along, I fail to understand how it could take 4 years b4 they start chasing seriously
I had something similar, as did a friend. As the bill was more than 12 months old just tell them to stuff it
I am working my way through a load of the documents they sent me. Gruelling to say the least.
I don't see it as a scam, if they have it wrong it is incompetence.
Re backbilling, it seems that as they did send a bill at the time, those rules don't apply (only if they haven't billed you at all) But I need to get to the bills just after it happened, see if the amount ever appeared.
Re ofgem, "Louise" has said that she cannot deal with me at all if I want to go to ofgem, and direceted me as to what I should do if I want to go down that route. I wonder if they will have to pay ofgem a "handling fee"? But I can't see any downsides. Worst case ofgem say it has to be paid.
Lastly, no, not a limited company. Seems anybody can set up a business account if you have a few places. Decent discount at the time, though probably not so good now.
Not directly relevant, but my experience of BG:
We had a small holiday cottage and used BG as the energy supplier. The cottage had no gas supply and was private cottage in a 'holiday village' of 40 houses. Each property owner was a director of a management company, so owned 1/40th of the company. The management company was there to run the site, which included the land, gardens, swimming pool, general upkeep of the site.
We got a bill from BG for £1500 for the first quarter for gas. We also got a separate bill for electricity for £240. Both bills were sent to our home, as arranged, and not to the holiday cottage. Obviously, we pointed out that there must be an error and the gas bill was sorted out. We continued to pay the electric bills.
Fast forward a couple of years, and we had a bunch of thugs at the doors, acting on behalf of a debt collection agency, demanding just shy of £12,000. Very confusing, embarrassing and annoying. We contacted the debt collection company as the apes on my doorstep had no details other than they wanted £12,00 within 30 minutes, or they were taking my car, goods, dog, etc.
BG had somehow tied the gas bill for our holiday cottage to another cottage owner who had a different postal address. These folks had no idea what the bill was for as they didn't use BG, so ignored them. BG kept sending them bills, then demands, then debt collectors. When the debt collectors got no joy (the names were wrong on the demands) they chased us...
BG were adamant that we had used the gas. We invited them to come and show us were the gas was. We had no supply to the property, and neither did any of the other cottages.
It took another two years of fighting before we got to speak to a senior manager at BG who came out (at our request) to check the meter number... He confirmed we had no meter...or gas. The only gas supply to the site, was for the swimming pool. Blokey checked the meter number and BINGO!! It turned out that another four cottage owners had also been getting bills for the pool building but they'd automatically paid them as they arrived!!
BG never apologised.