British Gas has been forced to apologize to hundreds of thousands of customers after failing to repair and maintain faulty boilers this winter, the reports Telegraph.
The energy giant promised to improve its customer service after being criticized for allowing its employees to work from home several days a week.
A cold snap is forecast for this weekend, with heavy snowfall and temperatures as low as -6C (21.2F), but many customers will be without heating or hot water.
It comes after announcing that energy bills will rise by an average £700 in April – a record jump of more than 50 per cent – amid a growing cost of living crisis.
British Gas customers with broken boilers say they have already had weeks of delays and canceled calls despite paying charges of £14 a month under the company’s HomeCare scheme, which was supposed to provide breakdown cover and an annual service for around 3, 4 million people.
Some customers have found their annual service delivery times delayed by orders of magnitude, with the company admitting it faces a “lack of standard appointments” in some areas.
Emergency calls also take weeks to respond to, leaving customers without adequate hot water or heating — a problem many also had in the fall.
The company has subsequently received tens of thousands of complaints and apologized for its poor service with a promise to fix the situation.
A British Gas spokesman said: “We have identified the issues and are taking the right steps to rectify them. Our customers are the most important thing. We are sorry and we have faith that we will improve.”
However, it has been warned about this issue by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The FCA said it is aware of the issues and is working with the company to resolve them, with British Gas expected to come up with a timeline to improve its service.
The scandal has yet to prompt a full investigation by regulators, which could ultimately lead to the company’s license to sell insurance being revoked or a significant fine being imposed.
A spokesman for the FCA, which is responsible for regulating and investigating how financial services operate, said: “We are aware of the issues and are working with the firm to ensure these are resolved as quickly as possible and customers are treated fairly .”
Sir John Hayes, the former Energy Secretary, said it was “time to get tough” on British Gas.
“Companies need to be made to assume their responsibilities and offer customers what they deserve,” he said.
“It’s time to get tough because people have to wait far too long. Families with children are living without heating or hot water and that’s just not good enough.”
Problems have been attributed to strikes and staff shortages due to Covid.
Chris O’Shea – chief executive of Centrica, the owner of British Gas – has come under fire in recent weeks for continuing to work from home despite the national energy crisis and mounting customer complaints.
Anthony Vickers, 46, a data analyst from Basingstoke, has been unable to run his children, ages two and five, in a hot bath for over a month because of a problem with his water heater.
A request for an engineer’s visit was first made in early January, and twice assignments were canceled within a day of being scheduled to take place.
He has had the same British Gas insurance policy since mid-2019 and pays £20 a month for the HomeCare service plan, which covers maintenance on his boiler and central heating.
The contract states that any problem that needs to be fixed will require an additional £60 to be paid – meaning he has paid out a total of £300 over the past year after the engineer’s participation and more than £600 since the policy began.
His efforts to get the £60 fee waived for the two canceled visits were initially rejected by the company.
He said: “We have a choice of either having paid the money, canceling them and essentially starting the process over again, or we’ve just got to try to hold out, try to get them out and then I’m going to cancel.”
A British Gas spokesman replied: “We are very sorry for the service Mr Vickers has received and it is not what our customers should expect from us. We will be waiving the £60 roadside repair deductible on this occasion and have spoken to him to confirm an appointment for Monday.”
Hundreds of customers have taken to social media with similar complaints, with some rearranging routine boiler services for the fourth time.
Alexander Stafford, the Conservative MP for Rother Valley and a member of the Business and Energy Committee, said he would raise the issue in Parliament.
“It’s an absolute disgrace,” he said. “If you pay for a service, you should get it.
“British Gas plays fast and loose with the rules and acts in a totally irresponsible way.”
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