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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71053
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Long story short - I had to sell my home as I am now unable

Customer Question

Long story short - I had to sell my home as I am now unable to work due to health problems and completed the sale on 12th September. I sold the house at a loss but was able to pay off the mortgage and clear my debts the main one being a large credit card bill. I took meter readings on 12th September with the new owner and during the week following the sale, set about paying off monies owed. I rang British Gas who supplied my electricity on 20th September to pay my final bill and close the account. I was told I owed £15.61 and as I had not lived in the property for the 4 months prior to completion but had paid my DDs to B Gas up to September I thought this seemed correct. I asked them to confirm that this was the amount owed based on the meter readings I had given them and that, they informed me, they had already received from the new owner of the house. They confirmed that this was the case, that the account was now closed and that I would received a letter confirming this is due course. I received a letter a few weeks ago from B Gas informing me that I owed them £453.05! I rang them and explained that this could not be correct but was informed that it was. I had numerous phone calls with B Gas over the previous few months as I was told in April/May when I rang with a meter reading that I owed £800 plus. I was in an awful state but was told in a later telephone conversation that this had been incorrect and when adjustments had been made I only owed (my memory is letting me down here so I am unsure whether it was £200 and something or £400 and something). My DD was adjusted and I continued paying this although there was a glip when I'd accidentally cancelled the DD as they had not explained that I didn't need to cancel the old DD payment. I have asked them to gather their 'recorded' phone calls between myself and them over these past few months and including the one where I was told I only owed £15.61 after the latest meter reading on 12th September. That was over 2 weeks ago and they said they would do this and get back to me in 7 days. I have not heard anything regarding this, just phone calls from their call centre asking me to pay the £453.05. I had budgeted the monies I had after the house sale to pay off debts and bills etc. If they had said I owed that much on 20th September I could have paid it. I no longer have the funds as I prioritised payments at the time going on what I was told I owed. I am Disabled and claiming benefits as I am currently unable to work due to a chronic health condition. This is worrying me greatly and I would be grateful for any advice you may be able to offer. I intend phoning B Gas again re this matter but I know they will simply insist I pay it.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your question. My name is Jo and I will try to help with this.

How can I help with this please?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Jo,


I would like to know if I have to pay this sum of money when it is British Gas who have made the errors and given me incorrect information and how I can ensure that this is, in fact, what I owe. Also, if I do have to pay this amount, I don't actually have it and any amount that I may be able to pay is going to be a pittance on a monthly basis due to my circumstances. This will be hanging over me for years when I could have paid it in Sept had they given me the correct information.


Thank you

Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
I presume you don't deny that their calculations are correct?

Its just that they gave you incorrect information earlier?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I don't have any way of knowing that their calculations are correct. I rang them in April/May with a meter reading as I was no longer living at the property and they told me I owed them £800 (and something). I was horrified. I spoke to them a few weeks later and they told me that they had 'readjusted' the readings and I only owed them (I think it was £200 and something but it could have been £400 and something). I know that sounds a bit flaky but I have been under a lot of stress with selling the house and my health situation. As I had not lived in the property since April and have paid monthly DDs until Sept, I do not see how I could now owe them over £400? I was told by their rep on 20th September that I only owed £15.61 and assured that that was after adjusting the meter reading taken on 12th September. They say they record all their calls, I have asked to have these found and they said they would do this and get back to me. Are they not meant to be bound to information they have given to their customers?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
Yes, I do understand why you are annoyed about this. Ultimately though any challenge has to be based on law.

If their calculations are correct then they are entitled to the money I'm afraid. There is no defence in saying that they gave you incorrect amounts earlier. That is just inefficiency but doesn't mean that they cannot enforce the debt.

You are reasonably entitled to see a breakdown and complain to the energy ombudsman if they do not comply.

The practical reality though is that they will not sue for this money. Its not worth the manpower. What they may do is add a default to your credit rating. That isn't desirable on the whole but its better than a CCJ.

If you credit rating is weak that may not matter.

If your credit rating is good then a better option may be to pay and then either sue or complain to the ombudsman if they will not provide a breakdown.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for clarifying that. One more thing, if I do have to pay but can only pay in very small installments, can they do anything to my credit rating?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
They can still add a default but generally they won't if you agree on instalment payments and maintain them. From their point of view, if they add a default they have lost the threat that gets people to pay