Our letter to British Gas CEO Iain Conn demanding compensation for customers

Dear Iain Conn,

We are writing to ask for compensation, on behalf of the thousands of British Gas customers who have suffered from British Gas extortion and bullying. Complaints include:

  • forced imposition of prepayment key or card meters even against Ofgem rules
  • price discrimination against prepayment meter customers
  • all customers being charged what the Competition and Marketing Authority called “excessive prices”
  • persistent pressure on users of gas and electricity for money that they do not owe.

Meanwhile, you have pocketed £3 million last year, profits have risen by nearly 1/3i – and 15,000 people have died because they could not afford heating.ii

The Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA) found that British Gas and the five major energy suppliers pulled in an average of £1.7 billion per year through “excessive prices” in 2012 – 2015, rising to £2.5 billion in 2015,iii when you failed to pass on anything like the money you saved through the falling price of gas and oil.

The CMA also found that those who overpaid the most were customers with Prepayment Meters – often imposed against their will when they were not able to pay your exorbitant prices. Prepayment Meter users – generally the poorest and most vulnerable customers – were robbed of an extra £260 – £330 each, per year.iv

Many people were shocked to see on Panoramav how companies including British Gas smash into homes to install these meters against people’s will: a violent and traumatic experience. Moreover, as the case of a British Gas customer shown in the programme makes clear, this is often done when Ofgem rules dictate that meters should not be installed at all — when it would not be safe or practical because of the customer’s age, disability or illness.vi

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, British Gas customers are contacting Fuel Poverty Action to complain that they are facing demands for money they do not owe, and that unbearable pressure is put on them for months or even years, only for the company to finally admit their mistake. Please see a few examples below.

For all these reasons we believe British Gas owes compensation to customers who have been systematically overcharged, beginning with the return of the hundreds of pounds extorted from each prepayment meter customer. As a first step we request your calculation of British Gas’ share of the millions in overpayments identified by the CMA, and the sums owing as a result of the predatory practices listed above.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Fuel Poverty Action

  • One disabled and elderly lady says, “I was awoken today by two British Gas meter fitters. They had a warrant from the magistrates court to put a gas meter OUTSIDE my bungalow. They could plainly see I could not walk well and that I had a walker and a crutch and a wheelchair. They started asking the neighbours if I could walk ok and telling them I how much I owed. . . .  they left me screaming and crying and having an asthma attack. When the gas goes I will have no gas at all . I haven’t got a card to get anymore and I can’t go outside to put any in or see if I have any credit I have no idea how it works.
    Is there anything I can do. They have frauded the court because they never informed the judge that I was disabled and ill.”
  • Another lady says, “The Gas was on a quarterly term and was not being used as much as they billed me. However I fought every inch of the way to prove my point and won. I was put into a situation where they wanted hundreds of pounds from me, I knew it wasn’t right and I decided was to fight them through and through.”
  • And a pensioner couple were hounded for years for thousands of pounds that they did not owe.
  • Another customer paid into a Homecare scheme for years, only to be refused help when her boiler failed.
iii https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/506949/Energy_PDR_Summary_March_2016.pdf para 59