Reducing my dad's direct dbit

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So my dad who is 86 has been relying on his smart meter to keep his bill with British Gas on the level. This has been something of a mistake, they say that last year he used 154kwh of gas. They asked for a meter reading at the start of the month and reckon that this year he has used 4000 odd kwh of gas. This has led them to raise his direct debit to £800 per month, which is pretty much his entire monthly income. We don't dispute that he has used the gas, or that he owes them the money its just the amount they are asking for is unreasonable. My brother phoned them to try and negotiate with them but got exactly nowhere. I am going to try again but I would like to know what options are available to use as negotiating tools.
British Gas also said they'd send an engineer to fix the meter but that hasn't happened, are they obliged to fix it?
Many thanks in advance. 
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  • MattMattMattUK
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    keithp88 said:
    So my dad who is 86 has been relying on his smart meter to keep his bill with British Gas on the level. This has been something of a mistake, they say that last year he used 154kwh of gas. They asked for a meter reading at the start of the month and reckon that this year he has used 4000 odd kwh of gas. This has led them to raise his direct debit to £800 per month, which is pretty much his entire monthly income. We don't dispute that he has used the gas, or that he owes them the money its just the amount they are asking for is unreasonable. My brother phoned them to try and negotiate with them but got exactly nowhere. I am going to try again but I would like to know what options are available to use as negotiating tools.
    You would need to come to an agreement regarding what is being treated as a debt repayment, also taking account of his ongoing usage. 4,000 kWh of gas only equates to around £400, so £800 as a bill seems high unless they are recovering underpayment all in one go, or he has very high ongoing usage. You need to first establish what the ongoing cost is and what the debt is from previous underpayment, then you are in a position to establish what would be a reasonable amount.
    keithp88 said:
    So my dad who is 86 has been relying on his smart meter... 
    They asked for a meter reading...
    When you say relying on his smart meter but the fact you also submitted a read do you mean the meter itself has not been reporting to them, or do you mean that your father was relying on the IHD (the little monitor gadget in the house) to see how much he thought he was using?
    keithp88 said:
    British Gas also said they'd send an engineer to fix the meter but that hasn't happened, are they obliged to fix it?
    It depends what you mean by the meter, if you mean the IHD then no, unfortunately not. If you mean the meter itself then yes they are supposed to try to get them reconnected to the network, but they are not required to do that on any fixed timescale and there is currently a shortage of meters if they needed to replace it due to the global semiconductor shortage, so they may not have the ability to fix it at the moment if they can tell it needs replacement. 
  • EssexHebridean
    EssexHebridean Posts: 21,476 Forumite
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    edited 23 December 2022 at 12:10PM
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    Martin Lewis did a piece on negotiating DD’s on his podcast a few weeks ago - it could be useful for you to have a listen to in conjunction with the advice given above. You can find it on BBC Sounds. 

    Have you made sure your father is on the priority service register with the supplier, and also has he authorised you to speak to people like utility suppliers on his behalf, if that is your intention? He’ll need to do that (it can probably done on the telephone with you there) before they will discuss his account with you. 

    There is definitely something wrong somewhere because as said, 4,000 kWh of gas is a long way under even £800 a year - never mind a month!
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  • keithp88
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    Little bit of background, I live in Ireland and am home for Christmas. I have been in the dark about this as he didn't want me to worry... 

    He essentially paid next to nothing last year, so there is a little over £2k of debt. His usage over the last two years has probably been consistent it's just that British Gas haven't had a meter reading for the best part of two years

    It's the actual meter that hasn't been reporting to British Gas. Apparently the IHD has never worked.

    I don't want this to be overly complicated, he isn't trying to get out of paying (he is honest to a fault) we just don't want to leave him with nothing. 
  • molerat
    molerat Posts: 32,008 Forumite
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    edited 23 December 2022 at 1:15PM
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    The first thing you need to know to negotiate is his actual annual usage.  What does he use gas for ?  What period is this 154 / 4000 kWh over ?
  • macman
    macman Posts: 53,098 Forumite
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    Basics: how is the property heated and hot watered? What is the gas used for?
    4,000kWh is way too low for nearly a year's usage, if providing CH and DHW, so is there another source for these?
    Take the usage data off the bills or meter, don't rely on the IHD.
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  • keithp88
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    I think this is from May 21 until now. His bill says he used 155.14kwh from 27 May 21 to 21 Nov 21 and then 4181.46kwh for the same period this year. This seems somewhat unlikely to me but I have only recently moved onto gas central heating from oil so I have no real frame of reference. I'm guessing that he is using probably 2000 or so kwh pa., but I could be wrong.
  • keithp88
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    macman said:
    Basics: how is the property heated and hot watered? 
    Gas does it all. What would be a realistic figure for annual usage? He lives alone and generally only has it on for about 6 hours a day.
  • EssexHebridean
    EssexHebridean Posts: 21,476 Forumite
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    edited 23 December 2022 at 12:59PM
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    “Typical use” is generally described as 12,000 kWh per annum. In real terms, you might expect one person in a small house to use 8,000 - 10,000 kWh per annum I’d suggest - others may estimate differently but that’s purely from what I’ve seen on here. If your father is “careful” with his heating as some elderly folk are - because of the cost aspect - then he may use rather less. If he feels the cold and has been lulled into a false sense of security by last year’s use being almost no more than the SC then he may well be over the typical though. Either way, 4,000 seems rather unlikely - I imagine you can see? 

    How long are you home for? If might be useful to make a diary note to read the meter again in a week and see how it looks on use then, but bear in mind that it’s extremely mild at the moment. 

    Edit:

    A further thought - that use of 154 kWh for essentially a “summer” period might not be too implausible. If he IS very frugal with his gas, and the house is small and fairly well insulated, it actually occurs to me that in fact the 4000 figure from Nov 21 > Nov 22 COULD be right - we may be comparing apples with oranges on the billing periods here! Last winter was a mild one, and into November this year has also been mild - it’s not totally implausible that he may not have had heating on to the end of that most recent bill period. 

    Can you have a look at the bills/account - and check whether that 4,000 figure is for “the same period this year - ie May > November, rather than from November 21 > November ‘22? 
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  • theoretica
    theoretica Posts: 12,344 Forumite
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    keithp88 said:
    Little bit of background, I live in Ireland and am home for Christmas. I have been in the dark about this as he didn't want me to worry... 

    He essentially paid next to nothing last year, so there is a little over £2k of debt. His usage over the last two years has probably been consistent it's just that British Gas haven't had a meter reading for the best part of two years

    It's the actual meter that hasn't been reporting to British Gas. Apparently the IHD has never worked.

    I don't want this to be overly complicated, he isn't trying to get out of paying (he is honest to a fault) we just don't want to leave him with nothing. 
    If - as it seems - British Gas messed up because their smart meter didn't work and they didn't ask for readings then in England 'back billing' legislation would I think apply. In certain circumstances energy companies may not bill for more than a year back.  Is there any equivalent legislation where you are?  It might be worth investigating.

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  • vic_sf49
    vic_sf49 Posts: 534 Forumite
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    keithp88 said:
    macman said:
    Basics: how is the property heated and hot watered? 
    Gas does it all. What would be a realistic figure for annual usage? He lives alone and generally only has it on for about 6 hours a day.

    Obviously, figures will differ depending on property / insulation and everything, but I used 550kWh last week alone, during the freezing weather.

    My Hive says I was running my heating about 6 hrs per day too.

    So I'm not sure your dad's energy consumption, and hours of usage add up.... unless it was "on" for 6 hrs a day, but the system rarely needed to fire the boiler up.
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