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British Gas admits energy price guarantee error

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29/03/2022
British Gas has admitted it made an error in emails sent to thousands of customers informing them of an energy price guarantee which was expected to shield billpayers from the 1 April price hikes.

Update 12 April 2022: See British Gas must pay compensation over price guarantee shambles to read about why we feel British Gas has not met Ofgem’s ‘Standards of Conduct’; our call for British Gas to apologise and offer compensation to affected customers, Brian who received £270 compensation and top tips to help you complain.

In September 2021, People’s Energy went bust, leaving around 350,000 customers in limbo as a new supplier was sought to take them on.

The regulator, Ofgem, announced that British Gas had been appointed as the supplier of last resort (SOLR), with customer accounts switched over from 19 September 2021.

In the days after, former People’s Energy customers received emails welcoming them to British Gas where it also included information about its gas and electricity price guarantee until 30 June 2022.

However, customers now claim that British Gas has quietly withdrawn all mention of this price guarantee from its website and dedicated page for former People’s Energy customers.

Instead, they’re being told to expect price hikes coming into effect from 1 April due to the increase in the energy price cap.

One customer said: “If you were moved to British Gas from People’s Energy as part of the supplier of last resort process, please check the contract they will have sent to you, most likely via email, around the end of September.

“British Gas issued contracts which explicitly stated that the price was guaranteed until the end of June, with very little wiggle room to increase prices. They have quietly removed this from their website/information pages and are putting prices up in line with the price cap on 1 April.”

And it seems the issue isn’t just with former People’s Energy customers. The Mirror reports a similar issue affecting former Neon Reef customers who were also switched to British Gas after the supplier ceased trading in November 2021, affecting 30,000 customers.

However, these customers were told their gas and electricity price would be guaranteed until 31 July 2022.

In response to both cases, a British Gas spokesperson said: “Due to a system error some tariff information labels incorrectly showed price guarantee dates. However, it was also made clear on this label that this was a variable tariff that would be subject to Ofgem Price Cap movements.

“We appreciate that the error may have been confusing for these customers and would like to reassure them that this has now been fixed. We would urge any customer worried about their energy bills following the price cap increase on 1 April to get in touch. We have a £4m support fund for our customers to provide grants of £250 to £750 to put towards energy debts.”

YourMoney.com has contacted British Gas/Centrica several times asking whether it will offer any compensation or money back to affected customers. We’re also awaiting further details of how many customers received these emails and how many complaints on this issue it is dealing with. We’ll update this article once we know more.

According to Ofgem, as well as being appointed SOLR for People’s Energy and Neon Reef, it also took on customers from these energy firms which ceased trading:

  • Social Energy Supply Ltd (5,000 customers) November 2021
  • Zebra Power Limited (14,800 customers) November 2021
  • Bluegreen Energy Services Limited (5,900 customers) November 2021
  • PFP Energy (82,000 customers) September 2021
  • MoneyPlus Energy (9,000 customers) September 2021.

An Ofgem spokesperson said: “Our top priority is to protect consumers and make sure the market is fair for everyone. When a supplier of last resort (SOLR) is appointed, we expect that company to set direct debits according to the most accurate information available to them. If a bill payer has an issue, they should contact their supplier, or the energy ombudsman.”

What can you do?

If you’re unhappy about the issue or service you’ve received from British Gas, the first thing you can do is complain directly to it. Credit meter customers can call 0333 202 9802 while pre-payment meter customers can call 0330 100 0303. Alternatively, you can submit a complaint online or write to British Gas – Complaints Management Team, PO Box 226, Rotherham S98 1PB.

As part of British Gas’ complaints handling procedure ‘We’re listening’, it states it will “investigate fully and will let customers know what needs to happen next – whether that’s us saying sorry, making a goodwill gesture or
giving compensation”. It said some account issues can take time to fix so recommends customers continue to make regular payments to cover energy use.

If the complaint isn’t dealt with within eight weeks, there’s no agreement on a way forward or customers don’t receive a satisfactory resolution, this is known as ‘deadlock’. British Gas stated it will write to customers to inform them that they can take their complaint to the energy ombudsman (Ombudsman Services).

Customers must escalate their complaint within 12 months of receiving a ‘deadlock’ letter.

The ombudsman will look at evidence from both sides and make a decision. A resolution could result in:

  • an apology
  • An explanation of what went wrong
  • A practical action to correct the problem
  • A financial award (subject to a limit)
  • Recommendations to the company to avoid similar problems happening again.

It’s free for customers to complain to Ombudsman Services but providers pay a fee for each case it reviews,

“This means that the more complaints suppliers resolve in-house, the less they have to pay to us, which is an incentive to improve their customer service. The fee doesn’t affect our decision making”, it stated.

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