Last year BHESCo helped an elderly gentleman on a prepayment meter switch energy suppliers. Unfortunately he has been the victim of shockingly unacceptable customer care in the way that his energy supplier handled his account, read on…
What was the switching problem?
This gentleman, aged 75, moved to his new flat in Hove in June 2013. The existing supply was British Gas so for simplicity, he just set up an account with them. The relationship did not start well as the first letter he received, welcoming him to British Gas, had no detail of his tariff or contract conditions for his prepayment meter.
He tried to get his tariff information by making numerous lengthy phone calls which were often fruitless and frustrating. Afterwards he continued to receive correspondence with his name spelt incorrectly and still no details of their tariffs for electricity and gas in larger print.
Correspondence was then received in August 2013, addressed to Brighton and Hove City Council, with a different customer number from the first letter sent, which warned there was a risk of disconnection. The bill was also for incorrect dates. As a vulnerable customer, he was very concerned about this which was exacerbated when in October he received yet more correspondence with new customer references numbers, informing him that his gas price was being increased, yet he still had not been told his tariff.
Finally in December 2013, he received a bill. The details were in small print although he had requested large print, so he was unable to read the paperwork. At this point he sought the help of Brighton Housing Trust. Following this contact, large print copies were received and he finally found out what tariff he was on.
At that point he decided to switch suppliers to Ecotricity. This switch was blocked by British Gas because, according to their records, the gas supply was blocked, although the customer was using gas provided by them to heat his home.
How was it resolved?
Unfortunately, further problems were experienced until July 2014, when the energy supply was transferred to Ecotricity. Ecotricity assisted with the switch, by investigating the problem and informing British Gas that the records held by the National Grid were incorrect. The customer has demanded compensation for the amount of time that was spent in sorting out his fuel supply problems.
Listen up British Gas!
Treating an elderly customer in this way is unacceptable. For problems to continually occur, shows a lack of concern for customer care. It is the customers right to know what tariff they are on, to receive a bill that they can read and to be able to switch energy supplier to obtain a better tariff.
Last week The Argus reported on the rise of community energy groups in Sussex; there are not over 6,000 community energy groups across the UK. The Sussex groups, which have come together in an umbrella group called Community Energy South, are working to reduce the number of people in fuel poverty and develop renewable energy projects, across the region.
Community Energy South led a series of free events, Powering Our Communities, in September 2014 which provided information for community groups, parishes, local authorities, individuals and businesses on developing low carbon, energy efficient communities. Ovesco and BHESCo were both present to give advice and information to visitors as well as rallying support and encouraging new communities to get involved in the community energy movement.
Three schools were also present, Ringmer Community College, The Priory School and Chailey School, who each received £250 and were asked to come up and present their ideas on how they could use the funding to become even more environmentally friendly. This exercise was carried out in order to give children the opportunity to think about energy challenges.