February 26, 2008

British Gas Breaks into Couple's Home (not ours)

This is from yesterday's Telegraph. I had to share.

British Gas broke into couple's home
By Lucy Cockcroft
Last Updated: 3:36am GMT 26/02/2008

A couple who returned from holiday to find the locks on their front door had been picked were shocked to discover that energy giant British Gas behind the break-in.

A British Gas engineer gained access to the two-bedroomed flat in Willesden Green, London, with the help of a locksmith, and swapped their meter for a pay-as-you-go version.

Proper checks would have revealed the couple did not owe a penny. But from 2005 the British Gas computer system wrongly began to bill the couple with demands rising from £90 to £900.

Mr Houghton dealt with numerous threats of legal action and visits from the bailiffs, before a personal apology from the energy giant’s managing director, Phil Bentley, convinced him that his troubles were over.

But when the couple went on a long weekend to New York in June 2007, they returned home to find British Gas employees had picked the locks on their front and internal door and installed a new meter.

They then left a note informing the couple of what had happened. Investigators have since worked out that it was the occupants of the next-door flat who owed the money to British Gas.

Mr Houghton said: “I am totally disgusted and bewildered by their behaviour. It felt so intrusive that they had been in our flat and could have gone into every room if they’d wanted to. “I spoke to manager after manager at their call centres and each time was promised the problem had been sorted out.”

A spokesman for the company claimed last night that the Gas Act allows workers to break into a customer’s home to change the meter, providing he or she has been warned in advance. However, Mr Houghton claims he was never notified.

A British Gas spokesman said: 'Our managing director, Phil Bentley, has spoken to Mr Houghton and apologised.

“We’ve since corrected our records, changed the meter back and Mr Houghton has been given £200 in compensation.”

--Now I know why my tech didn't show up all those times - he was busy providing quality customer service to his non-customers.