Questions of Cash: British Gas charged me £595 for just eight weeks' gas and electricity


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The Independent Online

Q. British Gas was my interim energy provider when I moved into my new home. BG has sent me a final bill of £595 for just eight weeks' gas and electric. It based this on a fabricated gas reading and an estimated electricity reading. My annual bill is usually about £1,200, so this is unbelievable. When you move into a new home you have to be with the existing provider until the energy transfer is completed from your old address. The interim provider can charge its highest rate and the customer gets no say in the matter. I provided BG with final meter readings on the date of transfer, but it keeps asking for the £595. BO, by email.

A. BG claims that you moved into your new home on 29 November, but only notified it on 1 January and only provided the readings at your move-in date after you received BG's bill. Npower had supplied BG with much higher readings than yours. BG has challenged those readings through the energy suppliers' dispute procedures. It has revised your bill in line with your readings and you have paid that revised bill.

Frustration over kickstarter investment

Q. I used Kickstarter last year to help get a UK company off the ground. It was aiming for $100,000 (£59,000) and raised an amazing $647,658 for a game console, GameStick. But that was over a year ago and many backers have not seen any rewards. The consoles arrived just before Christmas last year, nearly six months late. Many backers like myself also funded the development of a docking station, for which I provided $170. This docking station still has not appeared. Could you investigate, as over 5,000 people backed this, but the whole experience has been disappointing? MG, by email.

A. Kickstarter declined to comment and referred us to PlayJam, the company behind GameStick. Anthony Johnson, PlayJam's chief marketing officer, told us: "PlayJam is an established UK business with shareholders including GameStop, the world's largest games retailer, and Adobe. The company's core business is software, having developed a games platform designed to deliver affordable gaming to TV... We currently have our service running on between 80 million and 100 million devices in partnership with Samsung, LG, Sony & Panasonic.

"In January last year, we decided to use Kickstarter to raise funding to develop GameStick, a micro-games console powered by the latest version of our software. This was an ambitious project and we were delighted to have finished as [Kickstarter's] eighth most successful technology project at that time.

"If a Kickstarter project reaches its funding target during the campaign time limit – we reached ours in 30 hours – then additional products are often offered to help try and push the total higher. These are called 'stretch goals'. One of our stretch goals was an optional docking station for GameStick which was conceived during the campaign following feedback from backers. This has taken longer for us to fulfil. The delay is unfortunate and one which the entire staff at PlayJam have been working to mitigate for some time.

"The good news is that the product is palletised in China and awaiting shipment to forward distribution points in London, Texas and Hong Kong. They will be with our backers very shortly. Our chief executive has made updates via the Kickstarter platform and via direct email to all backers concerning this, as would be expected. We understand [the reader's] frustration and assure him that he will soon have his dock – we want that as much as he does."

Costs mounted during BT ombudsman dispute

Q. In early 2013, BT said it would make a refund in my next bill. BT did not, so I complained and switched provider. My dispute ended up with the ombudsman, who took months to come to a decision. BT told me I did not have to pay anything until the ombudsman made that decision. Despite this, BT passed my debt to three debt collectors. The first two backed-off when I said the bill was in dispute. In February, the ombudsman decided that BT should apologise for the shortfalls and deduct £25 from the account for goodwill. As soon as the ombudsman made the decision the debt collector threatened court proceedings for the outstanding sum without deducting the £25. I am being told to also pay the debt collector's charges, although the debt collection should have been put on hold. EG, Leeds.

A. BT's spokesman said: "We reduced the debt payable by [the reader] by £25, and contacted the debt collection agency to confirm this. [The reader] needs to contact the debt collection agency to discuss payment options for the outstanding balance of £32.69." As the final account balance was £51.15, this left £26.15 outstanding, suggesting that £6.54 had been charged for debt collection costs. We suggested to BT that given the small sum involved, it could avoid further dispute by writing this off. BT agreed and you have now paid the outstanding £26.15.

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