Product Information

Blog entered : 29 November 2012

Key = BG : British Gas / OS-E : Ombudsman Service : Energy.


                                 BRITISH GAS AND THE OMBUDSMAN SERVICE : ENERGY

I lodged a complaint with British Gas in early June 2012, after receiving 2 bills for different amounts for the same period. A dialogue began and the complaint was not resolved to my satisfaction as customer. I approached the Ombudsman Services-Energy, during this time who advised me to follow BG's complaints Code of Practise and to contact them afterwards if I remained unhappy and if the complaint had not been sorted.

Because some issues did remain unresolved I approached the OS-E who requested a signed complaint and supporting documents which I forwarded to them in late October 2012.

On 12 November 2012 the OS-E, in an unsigned letter, advised me "the Ombudsman Service will not be taking this complaint for consideration for the following reasons :"

"British Gas has apologised for the minor shortfall in customer service, amended the bill, explained why it happened and confirmed you provided the reading on time. We are satisfied that the complaint is resolved and that there is no prospect of a financial award", unquote.

That "In view of the above, I can confirm that I have advised British Gas and closed the case.", unquote.

If BG has resolved the complaint to the OS-E's satisfaction, what were these minor shortfalls in customer service ? what do I feel is still unresolved ? why should I be compensated ?

                                                      SO WHAT WENT WRONG ?

I submitted online meter readings on 28 May 2012 for the months electricity I had used. I received a bill for £38.05 on 30 May 2012. Received another bill on 1st June for £40.39 for the same period and immediately lodged a complaint with BG.

BG explained it needed to amend the meter reading they used on the initial bill and that the next one for £40.39 was the correct one.

When I asked why they needed to amend the initial bill they said it was because I had sent the meter readings in late on 29 May 2012.

I challenged this and asked them to look at their own email which thanked me for my meter readings at 11:33 on the morning of 28 May 2012.

In reply BG insisted the reading was received one day late on 29 May 2012 and also indicated the "Actual read was on : 29 May 2012" in my Account details.

Emails continued to go to and fro and I decided to complain to the OS-E because BG had abused what time it had to resolve the issues.

                                           SO WHAT REMAINS UNRESOLVED ?

(a) Although BG did attempt to explain what might have happened approximately 2 months later BG has never apologised for what happened between 28 May - 1 June 2012, or thereafter, or apologised for blaming me for it's mistakes.

(b) Because BG did eventually admit to receiving the meter readings on time and that it therefore had the correct meter readings to produce the first bill, did the second higher bill include an upgrade charge ? a hidden charge ? an increase ? or something equally less transparent or lawful ?

(c) Because BG was dealing with a complaint involving mistakes it had made, why did BG resort to using 2 different complaint reference numbers ?

(d) Because BG Head of Complaints wrote to me 3 times in response to my complaint it had made mistakes, why did BG then use a bogus Customer Reference Number in the last 2 letters ?

(e) Why did BG request my consent to change false and inaccurate written statements it had made on my account information, consent I would not give, before it then began correcting it's false, misleading and unlawful information ?

(This happened approximately a month after the complaint was made and the reason why I felt unable to give my consent was because BG had not asked for my consent when it put the false, misleading and unlawful information on my account in the first place).

(f) Why did it take BG two long months to finally admit unambiguously that I did send the meter readings in on time ?

(g) Although I asked BG to confirm it did not send out 2 bills to any other customers during this period, the 2nd being for a greater amount, BG has still not confirmed it did not.

(My concern is If any energy supplier sent out double bills to say 50,000 customers and the second bill was for an extra £2.00 for whatever pretext, the supplier would make an extra £100,000 it was not entitled to. I am not alleging this is what BG did but I am questioning why BG conducted the complaint in such an incompetent and inappropriate way)

                                                       WHY SHOULD I BE COMPENSATED ?

My last email to BG regarding my complaint was some 76 days after the complaint had been made. During that time I had written and replied to numerous emails, some lengthy, which involved time away from my business and from earning a living as a self employed person. None of the above issues were of my making and if we are led to believe "the customer is always right" the above complaint would have been resolved soon after 1 June 2012.

Throughout this period of time I continued to pay my bills to BG which means I continued to contribute towards the wages of the very people who were paid to deal with my complaint, and the very same people who were making it more difficult for me to pay future bills by abusing my time and by distracting me from earning my living.

If the problem never happens again it is because I brought it to the attention of BG, and to the attention of the very people who are supposed to prevent things like this happening, then I have done BG an enormous service at my own expense, time, frustration and distress.

                                  IS THE OMBUDSMAN SERVICE : ENERGY, FIT FOR PURPOSE ?

Absolutely not. No Ofgem approved Ombudsman is fit for purpose if it chooses to close a complaint it has not even properly investigated because the alleged perpetrator does not wish it. The "Ombudsman Services : Energy, is an independent service specialising in resolving customer complaints in an impartial way", unquote. A difficult thing to do when the Ombudsman in question has neither the balls, backbone or powers to act in the consumers interest and will therefore simply add insult to injury.

I ask the Ombudsman Services : Energy, to forward all the evidence it received from me on 22 October 2012 to Ofgem, and I ask Ofgem to investigate the serious issues my unresolved complaint to BG has raised. I ask BBC Watchdog to let me know if it is aware of any similar complaints of double bills being sent out by BG.

I am presently transferring to another energy supplier at this time and I will not use British Gas or the Ombudsman Service : Energy, again.


Update 07/12/2012 : With regard to 28 May 2012, BG has recently offered me the following bizarre written explanation, I quote

"Unfortunately 12.00am on the 28th of May had already passed at this point as 12.00am is the start of the day and 12.00pm is noon, with 'AM' standing for 'Anti Meridian', the Latin for 'Before Noon/Midday'. You therefore did not supply your meter readings on time and our system would have recognised this and began the process of issuing an estimated bill", unquote.

The problem here is BG itself advises customers to provide readings before 12.00am to avoid receiving an estimated Bill, and I received a thank you for your readings from BG at 11 : 33 on the morning of 28 May 2012, but I do understand what BG is attempting to do.

And if that is not enough transparency from BG consider this. Recently received a Bill for £59.36, for 28 Oct to 28 Nov 2012 readings, which is approximately £20.00 more than usual or a third more. Challenged this with BG and have recently been assured the Bill is not an estimate. Printed off the Bill breakdown which includes the term "Estimated" 20 times.


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Product Code: BG-OS-E