Saturday, November 13, 2010

British Gas nightmare - resolved

Things happened very quickly after I posted this and tweeted about it. I got followed by the proactive folks at British Gas customer relations department. They took up the matter and ensured that an investigation was indeed carried out.

Turns out that, as I suspected, there was a systemic error that meant I was billed when I shouldn't have been. So where telephone calls and emails failed to get me a foot in the door, blogging (macro and micro) kicked the door in. In the end, I got the bill rescinded and also an apology for my troubles. All is well again in the world.

It is an encouraging trend that folks at British Gas are listening to and talking with the groundswell. I think more companies need to be doing so. They also need to ensure that conventional customer service channels are a lot less of a pain to use. A happy customer is a repeat customer.


Saturday, November 06, 2010

British Gas nightmare

For weeks now I have been doing  battle with British Gas Home Care regarding an engineer visit. Here's my story.

We moved into our current home just before autumn kicked in and it was still warm. As the days started getting colder we discovered that we didn't know how to work the heating. After a few botched attempts at looking into ourselves we decided it was best to get folks whose job it was. So we called British Gas and explained the problem. They told us we there was a home care agreement under the previous occupant's name and if we wanted to take out a similar one, we said yes and asked them to close the other account to which they responded that only the owner could do so. We were informed that an engineer would look into the issue and carry out tests on our boiler and heating system to ensure that they could still find parts for them.

Engineer shows up and much to our shame, as it turns out, the thermostat was off. He turned it back on, did his tests and went on his way.
Fast forward a few weeks and I get a pay-now-or-else letter saying I owe £210 for services rendered by British Gas. I call them up and  try to ascertain what the bill was in relation to. The operative informs me that it is with regard to the engineer's visit. I inform him that we have a care agreement in place. He says it has been cancelled. I say by whom? He says he needs to get back to me. But he demands that I pay. That irks me and I tell him to find out why my account has been cancelled and that I think £210 is a lot to pay for someone turning on a thermostat. We have a stalemate and he says I might have court proceedings brought against me to which I respond: bring it!

A few weeks after that I get the second letter demanding payment. This is after I had reinstated the care agreement on being told by another operative that it was closed due to an error by British Gas.
On getting this letter, I decide that this is bullying. Corporate Goliath trying to trample on average David. It cannot be anything else, as had they taken time to look into the issue maybe they'd have found that I don't owe them. In the event that they needed to charge for the engineer's visit, as some companies do, £210 for an hour's work, if that, is no where near fair.

I have also received further communication relating to this dispute in form of a solicitor's letter urging me to pay or face a county court judgement and all the evil that brings. In response to this I have mailed the complaints department at British Gas and will be hoping that British Gas does what it should have done weeks ago and looks into this issue. I will be posting updates in the coming days and weeks.

All I can say is that from my experience, so far, it is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to hold service providers accountable and easier for their rights to get trampled upon. I am one customer but on this occasion I have decided that on principle I will follow this to a logical conclusion and take on the giant that is British Gas. Hopefully, the values entrenched in British society will mean that there is a victory for common sense and the little guy.