British Gas Screwed up Bill

My mum turns 70 later this month, she does well with apps and emails in general, but I try to help out where i can if she gets a little confused - 
She got a text message from her bank at the beginning of the month to advise that British Gas had taken a Direct Debit of just under £900 from her account for her electricity (It's usually £36)
I've had a look through her British Gas account and her last statement still showed that her DD would be £36, but it was showing a balance due of over £8000 (Which seems more than a little excessive for a 1 bedroom flat with just one person living there!)
I checked back through all of her online electricity statements and it looks like they've updated their system to say her Electricity Meter was replaced in June 2021 and the meter reading was reset from 23924 to  00000, so they're charging for all of the electricity used from 00000 all the way to the current meter reading of 26858 (The meter has never been replaced).
We've contacted them twice via online chat to explain what they've done and asked them to fix it - the first time (on 9th Dec) they told us to take a note of the meter reading that day and again on the 18th Dec and they'd fix it. 
When we contacted them on the 18th and explained the whole situation again and gave them the readings they said they'll need to pass it to another team, who will be in touch within 7 days. (I did point out that 7 days time will be Christmas, but they just kept repeating the same thing over and over)
So in the meantime, they've taken £900 out of a pensioners bank account and are telling her just to wait.
We asked them if we could escalate the complaint and they said they would log it as a complaint since we're not happy - but I'm not sure what good that's done.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how we get them to return my mothers money and sort out their mistake?

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

Comments

  • Can you check - was anything at all sent to her to notify her of the amount being taken? If not, then I believe you can make a complaint to the bank under the Direct Debit guarantee, and get the transaction reversed? 
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  • QrizB
    QrizB Posts: 13,624
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    There seem to be two different issues here.
    1. BG are moving every customer from their old system to their new one (the new one used to be "BG Evolve"). As part of this, the meter readings get moved across. Several people have previously reported opening readings being at odds with the closing reads on the old system, including cases where the new system has opened at zero. In every case so far, that's been resolved on the next monthly bill and everything has been back to normal. Most people haven't actually been billed £hundreds, they've caught it when the DD change notificaiton email arrives. It seems as though your mum missed the email or it wasn't delivered.
    2. £36 a month seems very low for an electricity bill. The "average" is closer to £80 a month, and standing charges are around £15 a month. Is it possible that your mum has been underpaying and does owe BG something? Maybe not £900, but more than you think?
    N. Hampshire, he/him. Octopus Go elec & Tracker gas / Shell BB / Lyca mobi. Ripple Kirk Hill member.
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  • Gerry1
    Gerry1 Posts: 9,723
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    Welcome to the forum.
    Call the bank straightaway and get the DD reversed.  The worst that can happen is that they say No.
    Forget Chat, make sure she's on the Priority Services Register and call its 0800 number.
  • Thanks everyone for the replies so far - she said she didn't get any email about the new direct debit amount (And there's definitely nothing on her BG Account Statements about it).
    The £36 per month is quite low, though she doesn't use a lot - just the TV, a couple of lights and the kettle really - she had been in credit previously though, so that's the reason the DD was so low - from a very rough calculation on her bill based on the current rates and the amount she's paid over the last few years I think she maybe owes about £100 more than she had paid (But not £900 and certainly not the £8000 that they say she still owes)

    She's told me that she contacted her bank on the 8th December but hasn't heard back from them yet (Which I thought seemed strange, so I'll maybe get her to contact them again next time I'm with her) 

    Just disappointed BG are taking so long to sort out their mistake. 
  • Robin9
    Robin9 Posts: 11,953
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    I don't trust any of the call centres when they say they have logged a complaint.

    Put it in writing.

    Also get a letter from your mum authorising you to act on her behalf
    Never pay on an estimated bill
  • Gerry1
    Gerry1 Posts: 9,723
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    edited 20 December 2023 at 3:45PM
    Remind the bank of the DD Guarantee which states that
    • If an error is made in the payment of your Direct Debit, by the organisation or your bank or building society, you are entitled to a full and immediate refund of the amount paid from your bank or building society.
  • Brie
    Brie Posts: 9,208
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    Robin9 said:
    I don't trust any of the call centres when they say they have logged a complaint.

    Put it in writing.

    Also get a letter from your mum authorising you to act on her behalf
    Most utility companies will let you email a scanned copy of a letter of authority so you can deal with things asap.

    Get mom to sign something that gives her name, address, the date & who she is giving authority to.  She doesn't need to address it to any particular company so you can use it for BT, council tax or whatever else she needs a hand with.  But obviously when you email it to BG (or whomever) it's best to include her account number so they can match it up easily.  Some banks will take these too but may time limit them (dated in last 3 months or similar).

    Get an official complaint logged, let them know they can email you and her back with updates.  Let them know that she's vulnerable, a pensioner, that they've cleared her bank account just before Christmas etc etc.  Give them both barrels!! 

    Good luck!
    "Never retract, never explain, never apologise; get things done and let them howl.”
  • Robin9 said:
    I don't trust any of the call centres when they say they have logged a complaint.

    Put it in writing.

    Also get a letter from your mum authorising you to act on her behalf
    Thanks - I've tweeted (Or X'd?!) them and they're replying to me now, they've said they'll send her an email to authorise me speaking to them about the account - so hopefully I'll get somewhere with that.
  • Just an update to this. The person I spoke to on X could see the issue and said he'd help to get it resolved. He said it could take a few weeks but in the meantime he reduced the Direct Debit back down to £36. I checked the BG App to make sure this had been done and it confirmed that the next payment, on the 9th Jan, would be £36.
    On the 9th Jan they then took another £877! 
    They've started to correct the account and it is now showing a positive balance, but a 70 year old pensioner is still currently out almost £2000 and they're only explanation is that "When you change a DD it shows the new amount even though that might not be the amount taken on that date - it's a flawed system" 
  • QrizB
    QrizB Posts: 13,624
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    They're right, inasmuch as you're ment to have ten days notice iany change to a DD and so, I'd they amend the system during those ten days, the old DD amount is still taken.
    Has a refund been requested?
    N. Hampshire, he/him. Octopus Go elec & Tracker gas / Shell BB / Lyca mobi. Ripple Kirk Hill member.
    2.72kWp PV facing SSW installed Jan 2012. 11 x 247w panels, 3.6kw inverter. 30MWh generated, long-term average 2.6 Os.
    Ofgem cap table, Ofgem cap explainer. Economy 7 cap explainer. Gas vs E7 vs peak elec heating costs.
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