Consumer rights: 'Why was my £1,000 electricity bill almost forty times the usual?'
Readers ask for help dealing with British Gas and on how to safely become an internet trader
Sunday 18 December 2011
Q. I recently opened my electricity bill (through British Gas) and was faced with a demand for £1,025.58. That's significantly more than the £40 or so that I am usually charged.
British Gas took a reading in March 2008 when I moved into my flat, and have been estimating the bill ever since. On 1 November, a man came round to take a reading and the discrepancy between their estimate and the true meter reading became apparent. However, I found this quite confusing, as I could swear there have been visits to take a reading during the past four years, and so I had assumed that the bill would be correct.
British Gas confirmed that there had been two visits to read the meter in the past two years. However, the information had not been put on their system. There were no readings taken during a two-year period at the beginning of the contract, and then when readings were taken they were not used to update what I should be paying, therefore putting me in this very bad situation.
Surely if a company is obliged to take readings, then it should do something with this information, not just throw it away and let their customers go into massive debit.
I was told that I couldn't make a complaint beyond speaking to the call centre operative, and the bill could not be frozen pending an enquiry. In addition, they are billing me at today's energy price, which of course will differ greatly to the true cost of what was used due to the fluctuating energy price over the past four years. Please can you help?
JH, South London
A. This is an issue about back billing. The Code of Practice for Accurate Bills has a Back Billing sub-clause which says that if your supplier is at fault, they will not seek additional payment for unbilled energy accrued more than one year prior to the bill being issued. British Gas have billed you in that way so I contacted them your behalf. As you know, things have now been sorted out.
This is the statement I was sent by the company: "When he moved into his property, he submitted a meter read which we used to open his electricity account. Despite two visits from meter readers over the next four years, the data was not submitted to our systems due to a technical issue. This meant that the bill was estimated on previous usage for the property.
"When a meter reader subsequently visited the property, we were given a true reading for his account and found there was a £1,000 balance outstanding. We've now apologised for the mistakes that led us to not recording the meter readings properly. We have applied the back billing code and withdrawn all charges prior to 7 February 2011, this produced an outstanding balance of £283.09. We have also added a gesture of goodwill which has reduced the balance further to £200."
When you rang up to query the bill, you were given the wrong answer and the customer care you received fell well short of what you'd expect. However, British Gas responded quickly to my call and got this sorted out straight away.
Q. For the first time ever, I find myself short of money. I've had my hours reduced at work. I can see things are difficult, and I'd rather have my job than be made redundant. But it's left me struggling to pay some bills over the next few months. I've always bought good clothes, shoes and bags and now some of them will probably qualify as "vintage", and I haven't used them for a long time so, I'm thinking of selling part of the collection to make life easier. I've never done the eBay thing and am worried that I won't get the best price or that I'll find buyers who won't pay up. Is it a safe way to go about it?
A. I haven't done it either but I know a lot of people who have and no one has reported problems. There are other auction sites such as Amazon.co.uk and Play.com. Check them all out and choose one you feel suits the goods you're selling. As with any business, you want to be where there will be potential buyers.
Register with the site as a seller and set up an account so that you can be paid. PayPal seems to be the account most people use – possibly because it's got a hold on the market but seems to be safe, secure and easy. Don't forget that for each item you will have to pay a fee for listing your goods on the site, as you would in a bricks-and-mortar auction room, and another fee when/if you do sell it.
Take into account the postage to get your sold items to their buyers. It is best to send them recorded delivery so that you have proof of postage. You might want insurance if something is valuable.
There are other ways of selling vintage goods. Vintage traders are always looking for stuff. Some will take your clothes and display them in their shops, and take a percentage when they sell them. Others will buy them from you and sell them on for a profit. Either way, don't hand over the goods until you know the money has been paid.
I know people who have got hooked on selling second-hand goods online or on market stalls and made a reasonable amount of money. Don't forget that income from that kind of trading is taxable, so if you do make enough to pay tax don't forget to tell the tax office about your additional earnings.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Questions of Cash: What are my rights if my leak is caused by neighbours’ roofs?
Pension mortgages: 'The advice I was given was wrong and now I face losing my home'
Gold-plated pensions – the key to retirement freedom?
Bargain Hunter: Win a Bentley competition to be driving in a winter wonderland
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Doctors remove 80 teeth from boy's jaw
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Douglas Carswell tells Ukip to stop blaming foreigners as youth poll shows Nigel Farage is even less popular than Nick Clegg
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
Day In a Page
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens